All will try to reach an agreement within four months of the conciliation procedure opened on June 2 by the Paris Commercial Court.

. Intermarché served, InVivo released

Intermarché has already obtained what it wanted: on May 26, Casino, which employs 200,000 people worldwide, including more than 50,000 in France, has committed to sell it a hundred stores in France.

Third French distributor, Intermarché also intends to participate in a "future round" to recapitalize Casino but at a small level (100 million euros). The two groups have already strengthened their procurement partnerships.

The union of agricultural cooperatives InVivo is even less concerned by the fate of Casino: after months of discussions, the agro-industrial juggernaut and its subsidiary Teract announced Thursday that they were abandoning their merger project.

. Current management

How much leeway for the current leadership? The commercial court has appointed two conciliators, Aurélie Perdereau and Marc Sénéchal, to renegotiate an abysmal debt (6.4 billion euros for Casino and about 3 billion for its parent company Rallye) even if the board of directors of Casino is still at the helm of the distributor.

Casino CEO Jean-Charles Naouri intends to remain one of the major players in this conciliation. The latter and the agreement with Intermarché "are part of our strategy to build the future of Casino," he wrote in a recent letter to the group's employees.

Casino Group CEO Jean-Charles Naouri in Paris, February 21, 2013 © Eric PIERMONT / AFP/Archives

Since then, however, the 74-year-old leader has spent a day in police custody in a case of alleged price manipulation and insider trading. While he was eventually released without charge at this stage, his image was affected.

. Creditors

Large banks, investment funds, institutional players... Who will want to convert the receivables into equity of a distributor in difficulty? Who will lose everything? Who will be able to put back in the pot?

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, who intends to take control of Casino, has proposed to some creditors to draw a line on part of the debt in exchange, either cash, shares, or both. And this, up to about 40% of the receivables.

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky during the Europa League Conference final won by English club West Ham, in Prague on June 7, 2023 © Vlastimil Vacek / AFP

New asset disposals, particularly in Latin America or the e-merchant CDiscount, could also contribute to deleveraging.

According to several sources, some of Casino's creditors are also holders of debt at the level of holding companies, which are also subject to conciliation proceedings. For them, the losses could be even more significant.

. Conciliators

In this very sensitive case, the conciliators' mission is to ensure the sustainability of the Casino group, in a form that remains to be determined.

"The question for them is not to know in absolute terms how much debt should be crushed but how much liquidity the group will generate" to sustain its activity and face future deadlines, observes a connoisseur of the file to AFP.

They have four months, plus an option, to find an agreement satisfactory to all, under the worried gaze of employees, the CGT calling on political decision-makers to "avoid social damage".

. Contenders

In addition to his offer to creditors, Daniel Kretinsky proposed a capital increase of some 750 million euros that would make him the main shareholder of Casino.

This offer, conditional on a very significant reduction in the burden of debt weighing on the distributor, is being studied in the context of the conciliation procedure.

In parallel, three of Teract's co-founders, Xavier Niel (Free), investment banker Matthieu Pigasse and distribution specialist Moez-Alexandre Zouari, decided, on their behalf and after InVivo's departure, to create a financial vehicle with a contribution of 300 million euros to increase Casino's capital. They are calling on other actors to join them.

According to Le Figaro, Auchan would have invited itself into the discussions by proposing a merger with the Casino group once the possible takeover of the distributor in difficulty by Mr. Kretinsky is concluded. Les Echos claim that the northern distributor would also have approached the trio Niel-Pigasse-Zouari.

An Auchan supermarket at the shopping center in the La Défense district, near Paris, on April 19, 2023 © Thomas SAMSON / AFP

Asked by AFP, the Mulliez Family Association (owner of Auchan) and Auchan France did not wish to comment.


© 2023 AFP