The group, which celebrates its 125th anniversary in a very uncertain context, announced on July 18 to give the green light to the offer to recapitalize and restructure its debt presented by the two billionaires, backed by the British investment fund Attestor.

This offer includes the contribution of 1.2 billion euros of new money as well as a strong restructuring of the debt - however a little less than initially expected. Group creditors must agree to the proposal.

The various sources interviewed by AFP say they are confident about the outcome, one of them believing that the offer of Daniel Kretinsky and his allies is for the creditors "the least bad solution".

Need to move fast

If an agreement in principle is indeed ratified, Casino then plans to submit the plan to the approval of its current shareholders - whose weight will be significantly reduced, starting with the current CEO Jean-Charles Naouri - "at the latest" on September 30, for a restructuring of its debt expected by the end of the year.

Casino is due to publish its first-half results on Thursday before the markets open.

But it has already warned that its turnover for the second quarter of 2023 would fall sharply (-8.9% compared to the figure published a year earlier, -6.6% on a comparable store basis), even though inflation, in double digits over this period, mechanically inflates supermarket sales.

It is especially hypermarkets and supermarkets that appear in full disarray. The group puts this fall on the account, in particular, of "price reductions" decided after a year 2022 where Casino had kept a higher price positioning than the competition. This, while customers, in times of inflation, are all the more attentive to their receipt.

As a result, Casino has also revised down its France profitability forecast for 2023.

Unions on the alert

What are the social consequences? "I am committed to hypers and supers and to preserve the maximum possible perimeter," assured Daniel Kretinsky on July 16 in an interview with Les Echos.

According to the group's first union, Force Ouvrière, the buyers plan to "franchise a large number of stores", a model in which the majority of costs are the responsibility of the manager. This aspect of the plan is "not satisfactory" and will have to "be accompanied socially," warned the organization, which has met three times with Daniel Kretinsky's teams.

Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky in Paris, January 22, 2020 © JOEL SAGET / AFP

The situation of Casino "augurs new transformations whose employees could once again be the variable of adjustment", also alerted the CFDT Services, for which the passage of stores in franchise would be as many "restructuring that do not say their name". She hopes for "a real involvement of the public authorities".

In front of the National Assembly, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on July 11 that the State would be vigilant on "the future of the 50,000 employees of the group" in France and on the maintenance of the historic headquarters of the group in Saint-Etienne. Employees "do not have to pay for mistakes that may have been made by management," he said.

Mass distribution in France: market © shares Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Sabrina BLANCHARD / AFP

The candidates for the takeover of Casino have indicated that they want to maintain the headquarters in Saint-Etienne and make it "the center of innovation" of the group. Instead, they plan to divest the group's Latin American business, for which three-quarters of the group's employees work.

© 2023 AFP