Exclusive: Canada’s Couche-Tard drops $20 billion Carrefour takeover plan – source

Carrefour Hypermarket store in France

LONDON (Reuters) – Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard has dropped its 16.2 billion euro ($19.6 billion) bid to acquire European retailer Carrefour SA after the takeover plan ran into stiff opposition from the French government, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

qatar airways

The decision to end merger talks came after a meeting on Friday between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Couche-Tard’s founder and chairman, Alain Bouchard, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential.

Couche-Tard and Carrefour declined to comment.

Earlier on Friday, France ruled out any sale of grocer Carrefour on food security grounds, prompting the Canadian firm and its allies to mount a last-ditch attempt to salvage the deal.

“Food security is strategic for our country so that’s why we don’t sell a big French retailer. My answer is extremely clear: we are not in favour of the deal. The no is polite but it’s a clear and final no,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

The French move, with ministers shooting down the offer less than 24 hours after talks were confirmed, sparked disquiet in some business circles over how French President Emmanuel Macron decides which foreign investment is welcome and which is not.

Some politicians and bankers said the pushback could tarnish Macron’s pro-business image, while others highlighted that the COVID-19 crisis had forced more than one country to redefine its strategic national interests.

The comments sparked a trans-Atlantic flurry of lobbying and Couche-Tard’s Bouchard flew to Paris to explain the merits of the deal to Le Maire, the source said, adding the Finance Minister reiterated his opposition without listening to the terms of the transaction.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asked about the prospects for a deal, said he would always be there to help Canadian firms succeed internationally and he spoke this week to Macron.

($1 = 0.8282 euros)

(Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia in London, Gwenaelle Barzic, Dominique Vidalon, Benoit Van Overstraeten, Michel Rose, Elizabeth Pineau and Sarah White in Paris, Allison Lampert in Montreal and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Alexander Smith)