Carrefour sells stores in Greece ahead of election


CARREFOUR’S NEW chief executive has sold the French retailer’s stores in Greece for €1 to its local joint venture partner ahead of tomorrow’s crucial elections in Greece.

Another French company – Crédit Agricole, the country’s third largest bank by assets – is transferring assets to France from its Greek subsidiary Emporiki bank, it was revealed yesterday.

The move is another sign of Crédit Agricole’s waning commitment to the debt-ridden country whose future in the euro zone is in question.

Carrefour said it would book a loss of €220 million on the sale of its loss-making Greek operations to the family-owned Marinopoulos group, its joint venture partner that will become Carrefour’s franchisee in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and other Balkan countries.

The sale is the first by Georges Plassat who replaced Lars Olofsson as Carrefour CEO last month and who is expected to outline elements of his strategy to turn around the troubled retailer on Monday at the company’s annual meeting.

The 463 Greek stores will retain the Carrefour banner and the transfer of assets and management to the Marinopoulos group was because it was “best placed to ensure its management in the current context”, Carrefour said.

Leonidas Marinopoulos, president of the group, said it remained “firmly committed to Greece”.

Carrefour has been in Greece since 1991. It is its second largest market in Europe in terms of number of stores but its worst-performing. Sales there fell 16 per cent in the first quarter of the year, and Mr Olofsson said at the company’s 2011 results that it was the group’s only loss-making country.

Of the 463 shops being transferred to Marinopoulos, 41 are hypermarkets and 252 are supermarkets, with the remainder a mix of other formats.

Meanwhile Crédit Agricole is to transfer the ownership of Emporiki’s banks in Romania, Bulgaria and Albania to France, aimed at allaying the concerns of depositors in those countries.

Crédit Agricole is the European bank most exposed to Greece, and is ready to launch a plan to stem losses in Emporiki if the situation in the austerity-hit country takes a turn for the worse. – (The Financial Times Limited)