The Canadian group of convenience stores Alimentation Couche-Tard approached the French Carrefour about a takeover as part of a deal that would bring together two retail groups jointly worth more than $ 50 billion.
Talks were at an early stage, the companies said Tuesday evening in separate statements. Couche-Tard had made the approach fairly recently, one person briefed on the matter said, while a second said Carrefour needed time to study the idea.
If done, the deal would push Couche-Tard further into Europe and Latin America and diversify its convenience store business by adding Carrefour’s portfolio of large-format supermarkets in suburban areas, as well as small urban stores.
The Canadian group, which has a market value of $ 37 billion, has long grown through acquisitions and was among the bidders last year for Speedway, the group of gas stations owned by Marathon Petroleum that ultimately was acquired by its Japanese rival Seven & i Holdings. for $ 21 billion.
In 2019 it sought to buy Caltex Australia in a $ 5.8 billion deal that would have allowed the company to gain a foothold in a third continent, but Couche-Tard left last April as the Coronavirus pandemic has taken root.
Couche-Tard, based in the suburbs of Montreal, has a network of more than 9,200 convenience stores across North America through several brands, including Circle K, employing approximately 109,000 people. The group is less present in Europe, where it has less than 3,000 stores in its network. In addition to convenience stores, it also has gas stations often located on site.
Carrefour is the largest supermarket chain in France with some 2,000 supermarkets and over 700 large format hypermarkets in Europe; it is also present in Brazil and Argentina. Alexandre Bompard, managing director, was on a cost reduction drive in recent years, allowing it to make significant investments in the development of e-commerce, which exploded during the pandemic. It has a market value of 12.5 billion euros and net debt of 15.8 billion euros.
The deal would see Couche-Tard follow a similar path to that taken by the owners of British gas station company EG Group. Last year they agreed to a Offer of £ 6.8bn to buy British supermarket chain Asda from Walmart in a deal that won’t merge the two activities, but which could lead Asda to open convenience stores at EG group gas stations.
Couche-Tard’s approach to Carrefour was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Additional reporting by James Fontanella-Khan and Arash Massoudi