Paris (AFP)

The French Carrefour and the Canadian Couche-Tard announced Saturday to have "interrupted" their discussions on a "friendly rapprochement", after the veto of the French government, but "decided to extend their discussions to examine opportunities for operational partnerships".

Among the areas of cooperation envisaged, presented in a joint press release, "the sharing of good practices in fuel distribution", "the development of joint purchases", the "sharing of expertise and the launch of innovations to improve the customer experience ", or even" the optimization of product distribution in regions common to both groups ".

"Building innovative partnerships is a key point of Carrefour's transformation strategy", declares in this communication the CEO of Carrefour Alexandre Bompard, for whom the partnership with Couche-Tard "is fully in line with this strategy which has already enabled us to find a profitable growth path ".

For his part, the President and CEO of Couche-Tard, Brian Hannasch, believes that "the operational opportunities with Carrefour will enable us to achieve our ambition to become a world leader in mass distribution".

"The areas of cooperation envisaged are aligned with our strategic plan, our commitment to strengthen ourselves on our main activities such as proximity formats and fuel distribution, and our desire to explore the multiple opportunities in the associated growth areas", he explains again.

The two groups had communicated in the middle of the week on discussions with a view to a "friendly rapprochement", against which the French government expressed a veto in the name of "food security".

"We are not giving up one of the major French distributors," Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Friday on BFMTV and RMC.

This position is all the more dissuasive as the government has the power to block buyout operations in the agri-food industry, via regulations on the control of foreign investments.

The argument was criticized by a government source in Ottawa on Friday evening.

"It can be argued that it is politically possible to decide not to allow the country's main employer to pass into foreign hands," said this source, joined by AFP.

"But we cannot accuse a leading Canadian company like Couche-Tard of endangering the food sovereignty of an entire country."

© 2021 AFP