Unable to convince the French Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, of the benefits of the Alimentation Couche-Tard and Carrefour, the founding president of the Quebec giant, Alain Bouchard, surrendered Friday evening.
The billionaire businessman had openly traveled to Paris to meet with Monsieur Le Maire, but the discussions were fruitless. At the end of the afternoon Quebec time, Reuters revealed that Couche-Tard’s management had given up on its $ 25 billion project, wanting to avert a political storm across the Atlantic.
Before receiving Mr Bouchard, Minister Le Maire had pushed his opposition to the proposed deal even further. “My position is not pleasant, but it is clear and final,” he said.
Relations between France and Quebec
For his part, his counterpart in Quebec, Pierre Fitzgibbon, conceded that the French government had the potential to stamp out Couche-Tard ambitions in the bud.
Couche-Tard’s disqualification is a blow to relations between France and Quebec, especially as the Legault government “facilitated” the Airbus and Alstom acquisition of two major divisions of Bombardier, the C-Series and Bombardier Transportation, Fitzgibbon said Friday.
The Quebec minister was optimistic that Alain Bouchard would succeed in “calming” Bruno Le Maire’s food safety concerns, which he considered “legitimate,” especially in the midst of the pandemic.
“The entry of Couche-Tard into the Carrefour capital should not affect food security, given that we’re talking about distribution, not production,” said Mr Fitzgibbon.
“What is at stake is not that Couche-Tard is taking Quebec products to send to the Carrefour ecosystem,” he added. And it is not about the jobs. Jobs will not leave France to come to Montreal. “
Pierre Fitzgibbon personally spoke to Mr Le Maire as well as Mr Bouchard and Roland Lescure, a former senior executive at Caisse de dépôt et placement and now a member of the ruling party in France.
Trudeau is discreet
On Friday, it was impossible to know if Ottawa had contacted the Elysee on the matter.
Only Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Our role as a government is to be there to support Canadian companies, including when they seek to expand globally.”
In the French press, on Friday we asked about the signal being sent out on the international stage of rejecting the deal between Couche-Tard and Carrefour of Emmanuel Macron’s government, which calls itself “probability”.
Mr. Fitzgibbon admitted that Couche-Tard’s anti-unionism in Canada could complicate matters in France, while asserting that the company was “a very good employer”.
according to reverberationCouche-Tard cited investments of 3 billion euros (4.6 billion Canadian dollars) over five years to develop Carrefour. According to Bloomberg, the company was ready to ensure that jobs in France would last for two years, then keep the Carrefour headquarters and be listed in Paris.
Reuters said Couche-Tard CEO Brian Hanash and Carrefour CEO Alexander Bombard had co-led the joint entity.
A lawyer involved in negotiating this agreement told Ottawa on Friday that if Couche-Tard had not been thrown in the towel, Canada could have exercised asylum under Free Trade with Europe (CETA).
“The refusal to even consider any Couche-Tard application is, in my opinion, a violation of both French law and CETA law,” said Pierre Olivier-Savoy. magazine.
Couche-Tard’s last big acquisition was that of US CST Brands in 2017. Last year, Couche-Tard failed in its attempts to buy the Australian group Ampol (formerly Caltex), which offered it nearly $ 8 billion, and the chain American Speedway, which Japanese giant 7-Eleven swallowed for $ 21 billion.