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Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is closing in on buying the French supermarket chain Casino, paving the way for a foreign rescue.
Casino's board on Monday approved moving forward with talks about Kretinsky's attempt to take over France's sixth biggest retailer, which is laden with debt and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
The French government has not voiced opposition to the bid by the foreign businessman, though is reportedly concerned about possible job cuts.
Casino employed some 50,000 people at the end of 2022.
If the sale goes ahead, it would bring to an end the 30-year reign of CEO and controlling shareholder Jean-Charles Naouri, during a period where traditional retailers are struggling with the rise of e-commerce and discount supermarket chains.
Kretinsky saw off a rival bid from 3F Holding led by telecoms maverick Xavier Niel, who pulled out.
Niel was joined by investment banker Matthieu Pigasse and businessman Moez-Alexandre Zouari, though another backer of the bid - the Attestor Capital fund - switched sides to support the 47-year-old Czech billionaire.
3F said late on Sunday it was dropping its bid, citing a "biased process" and lack of information.
This left Kretinsky the sole bidder for the company which is reportedly saddled with debt of around 6.4 billion euros.
He plans to inject 1.2 billion euros into the distressed retailer, as part of a consortium with French billionaire Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere and Attestor.
Casino's shares were suspended on Monday, though they were due to resume trading in Paris on Tuesday morning.
Kretinsky, who began his career as a legal trainee, is the owner of the largest energy group in central Europe, Energetický a průmyslový holding (EPH).
He has been scooping up assets in retail, media and other areas, as surging energy prices boost the profits of his power, gas and coal businesses.
Kretinsky is already a major shareholder in the English football club West Ham, and has purchased stakes in the French national newspaper Le Monde, retailer Fnac-Darty, British supermarket chain Sainsbury's and German grocer Metro.
His net worth is €8.4 billion, according to Forbes.
Posted on 19 Jul 2023 15:59 link