(Reuters) – The battle over the takeover of Casino took a turn on Sunday with the withdrawal of 3F Holding, while the French distributor, in great financial difficulties, had given candidates until the evening of July 14 to submit their offers restructuring revisions.
Bringing together the three businessmen Xavier Niel, Matthieu Pigasse and Moez-Alexandre Zouari, 3F announced in a press release that it would not submit an offer for the takeover of the Saint-Etienne group, denouncing a lack of information and a “biased” process, and leaving the field open to the rival proposal made by the Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky.
Contacted by Reuters, Casino declined to comment on 3F’s withdrawal.
Casino was expected to present the revised offers to its creditors at the beginning of the week, after having made public, on July 4, the content of the 3F offer and that associating Daniel Kretinsky with Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière.
In an interview with Les Echos published before 3F’s announcement, Daniel Kretinsky said he had submitted a revised offer on Saturday to “take into account comments from secured creditors, but also to take into account, to some extent, the interests of unsecured creditors”.
“The company’s net debt would be reduced by more than 6 billion euros, which, in our opinion, meets the requirements defined by Casino and provides a very clear solution. Of these 6 billion, there are 1.2 billion contribution of fresh money, the rest being the conversion of debt into capital”, details the Czech businessman.
3F wrote in its press release that it had decided, “after months of work”, not to submit an offer, deploring that Casino did not provide the requested information on “the projection of liquidity and result needs by the end of the year, (…) on the results of Cdiscount in the second quarter, as on all the off-balance sheet commitments which weigh on the group”.
Indicating having managed to “build a solid offer project” despite “various maneuvers”, 3F explains its withdrawal by its refusal “to participate in a biased process”, Casino having according to him “visibly already chosen its buyer”.
This process, adds the investment vehicle of the Niel-Pigasse-Zouari trio, “does not give an equal chance to all candidates and the best possible chance to the Casino group and its employees”.
“MASSIVE DEBT REDUCTION”
Casino, whose total debt reaches 6.4 billion euros, has set itself the goal of raising at least 900 million euros in new equity.
However, this is only one step in the vast restructuring plan of the Saint-Etienne distributor, which launched official negotiations with its creditors at the end of May as part of a conciliation procedure before the courts intended to restructure its debt.
Casino management and court-appointed mediators have set July 27 as the deadline to reach an agreement in principle on the terms of the financial restructuring.
Reuters learned last week from sources familiar with the matter that the two sides had presented to court-appointed conciliators, state officials and Casino management on Tuesday their pricing strategy, revenue targets and business and profitability or their vision for the group’s stores.
According to the details of the offers made public by Casino earlier this month, the plan proposed by Daniel Kretinsky initially totaled 1.35 billion euros, eclipsing the proposal from 3F which had indicated that it wanted to inject 900 million euros into the group.
“In the end, we are leaving a little more debt in the company than in the original proposal – but the deleveraging is still massive – and the contribution of fresh money is very slightly revised downwards while remaining significantly higher than what Casino had asked for,” Daniel Kretinsky told Les Echos of his revised offer.
“Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière and I still plan to bring in 900 million euros in new money and creditors will have the possibility of subscribing to new shares – under the same conditions as us – up to almost 300 million euros,” he added.
3F said in the statement released on Sunday to remain “open and available” for Casino to be saved.
(Written by Jean Terzian, with John Irish)
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