Paris (AFP)

The French distribution group Auchan announced Monday the sale of its Chinese subsidiary SunArt to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, for some 3 billion euros, thus marking the end of its activities in the country.

"Three years after the signing of an alliance" and after having "jointly observed the specificity of the Chinese market, Auchan Retail accepted the proposal made by Alibaba to buy back all of its stake in SunArt (484 hypermarkets, 150,000 employees, leader in food market share in China) ", explained the French group in a press release.

"Through this operation and its withdrawal from China, Auchan Retail reaffirms its desire to accelerate the deployment of its Auchan 2022 business plan on its current locations", he adds, stressing that "by this sale of a amounting to around 3 billion euros, it will thus have the financial means to deleverage ", to seize new opportunities and" to develop in new countries ".

"For 20 years, in close collaboration with our local partners Ruentex and Alibaba and thanks to the commitment of our Chinese teams, we have supported the development of our activities in this country. An inspiring market, it is nonetheless very specific. "and" Alibaba appeared to us to be the most able to grow SunArt, "said Edgard Bonte, president of Auchan Retail, quoted in the statement.

"The operation is being carried out at the equivalent price of 8.10 Hong Kong dollars per share and will be the subject of a public tender offer on this basis," Auchan said.

The distribution group announced the first part of its "recovery" plan in spring 2019, with the sale of 21 sites potentially involving between 700 and 800 employees.

Then in January he launched a voluntary departure plan, which spared the stores, with the elimination of more than 500 jobs.

At the start of September, the group presented the second stage of this plan, which involves 1,500 new job cuts.

In the first half of 2020, profitability increased by 79%, but operating income remains negative.

Digital turnover now represents 12% of total turnover for the half-year (ie a growth of 33%).

Present in 14 countries, Auchan Retail has 2,293 points of sale and employs 329,694 people.

© 2020 AFP