Oh thank goodness! We nearly had a heart attack this morning when we read this chilling article (maybe just chilling to all of us who enjoy comparably cheap imported French cheeses) in the Economist noting that two big shareholders were reportedly pushing Carrefour to sell off its China and Brazil businesses. At least according to the company, it’s not true.
Which is surprising because 1) it’s the Economist for goodness sakes! While we know very few publications make 100% accurate journalism, we were under the impression that the Economist was one of the closer ones. 2) Look at how convincing their reasoning was:
Colony Capital, an American private-equity firm which specialises in property, and Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, a luxury-goods group, first invested in Carrefour in 2007, and now own more than 13% of its shares and around 20% of its voting rights, mainly through a joint holding company called Blue Capital. Like many activist investors, they were caught out by the crisis: Carrefour’s share price has fallen from around €50 ($67) when they made their purchases to €30 today. Their original aim was to spin off Carrefour’s property portfolio, which would have brought a one-off gain, but plummeting property values undermined the plan.
Selling Carrefour’s Asian and Latin American businesses could bring in as much as €13 billion, and would result in a special dividend for shareholders of around €10 per share after tax and some reduction in debt, estimates Philippe Suchet of Exane BNP Paribas, a brokerage firm.
Not being finance types, that doesn’t mean much to us – though it sounds like it could mean something to somebody! But we were struck by how little sense this business proposal made. Even if you had some crazy activist investors, surely a global company couldn’t be so controlled by insane people that they’d sell off the two markets where they were experiencing the most explosive growth!
Carrefour replied with as much themselves, sniffing that it was “not in the habit on commenting on rumors, but given their recurrence, Carrefour denies the sale of its businesses in growth markets.”
We think we’ll make a trip today and stock up just in case.