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French retailer Casino finalises rescue deal led by Czech tycoon

Published 10/05/2023, 02:19 AM
Updated 10/05/2023, 11:46 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of French retailer Casino is pictured outside a Casino supermarket in Nantes, France, May 10, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters) -French supermarket group Casino has finalised a deal to avert bankruptcy through a debt restructuring agreed with its main creditors, led by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky.

Casino was brought to the verge of default after years of debt-fuelled acquisitions and recent losses in market share to rival supermarket operators.

On Thursday Casino said the binding debt deal was reached with the consortium led by Kretinsky's company EPGC alongside Casino's biggest creditor Attestor, its second-biggest shareholder Fimalac and the retailer's secured creditors.

"Casino has reached a major milestone in its financial restructuring process by obtaining the agreement of its main creditors on a financial restructuring plan," CEO and controlling shareholder Jean-Charles Naouri said in a statement.

Casino's shares, which were suspended on Wednesday, rose 9% as trade resumed on Thursday morning before paring gains to stand 5% higher at 1315 GMT.

The deal massively dilutes shareholders and will bring to an end the 30-year reign of 74-year-old Naouri, who controls Casino through his listed holding company Rallye. Casino will formally change hands at the end of March next year.

Kretinsky and Naouri have not yet decided on the fate of Naouri after the change of control, a source close to the deal said.

A self-professed lover of France, Kretinsky is also in talks to become the biggest shareholder in French IT consulting firm Atos, developing a portfolio of assets in the country after a string of investments in Britain with soccer club West Ham, retailer Sainsbury's, and Royal Mail (LON:IDSI).

Worth $9.5 billion according to Forbes, Kretinsky made his fortune in the energy sector and now owns a house near the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Thursday's announcement finalises a July agreement in principle which called for 1.2 billion euros ($1.26 billion) of new money to be injected into Casino, as well as a reduction of Casino's debt by 6.1 billion euros.

Naouri said the binding agreement "creates a favourable framework" for the long-term sustainability of Casino's business, maintaining its workforce and head offices and continuing to develop its brands.

The retailer, which is now France's sixth-largest supermarket group, said it planned to pursue discussions with the financial creditors not yet party to the lock-up agreement to get them to sign up to it too.

Casino reiterated it had until Oct. 25 to obtain from a commercial court the start of an accelerated safeguard procedure under which it could approve the plan with the support of secured creditors and compel reluctant creditors to follow.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of French retailer Casino is pictured outside a Casino supermarket in Nantes, France, May 10, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

Casino's Chief Financial Officer David Lubek said price cuts were bringing more customers into the retailer's stores. Footfall in Casino supermarkets was up 4% over the past four weeks, the company said.

($1 = 0.9513 euros)

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