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It's a story that has had more twists and turns than the samba (and there are set to be more to come). The battle for control of Brazil's largest retailer has pit two of Europe's biggest grocers against each other as they look to secure a foothold in one of the world's key emerging markets.
Even this morning (4 July), the fight for CBD, also known by its trading name Grupo Pao de Acucar, grabbed the headlines. Carrefour, which is looking to strengthen its presence in developing markets amid tough trading in more mature markets (not least in France), announced it would back a plan - first put forward by a Brazilian investment fund last week - to merge its operations in the country with CBD.
The plan, which is supported by Abilio Diniz, Casino's co-shareholder in CBD, had already angered the French retailer and Carrefour's announcement drew a stinging response from its rival, which again insisted that any deal would need its support. Casino, notably, also said Carrefour "may be liable" in accepting "despite repeated warnings, a hostile transaction arising out of illegal negotiations".
When rumours first surfaced that Carrefour was in talks with Diniz, the Brazilian businessman found himself the subject of an arbitration request at the International Chamber of Commerce. Today, Casino said it had tabled a second request for arbitration on Friday. Will Casino look to take similar action against Carrefour?
There is, at the moment, no telling how the whole story will pan out. Diniz believes the proposed merger will result in "considerable" benefits and Carrefour has outlined the synergies and sales benefits it expects to see from the deal, but Casino remains opposed to the plan. In Brazil, the story has divided politicians and, on Friday, the Brazilian National Development Bank, which is set to part-fund the transaction, said any deal could only go through if it was backed by Casino. Today, the head of the bank will meet Casino CEO Jean-Charles Naouri to discuss the situation.
The world's BRIC markets demand attention no matter what industry you operate in and the food sector is clearly no different. Hardly a day goes by without significant news from the four markets and, in the last seven days, among other news, we have seen Campbell Soup Co. announce it is to quit Russia and confirmation that Nestle is in talks to potentially buy Chinese confectioner Hsu Fu Chi.
Campbell's decision to leave the Russian market was a surprise as the US company only entered the country in 2007. The company believed it could persuade Russians to eat more ready-to-eat soups, but sales there failed to reach the company's expectations. Campbell is sticking around in China, which it entered at the same time as Russia, but could traditional habits stymie attempts to build a long-lasting business there, too?
The confirmation this morning that Nestle is in talks over the potential takeover of Chinese confectioner Hsu Fu Chi shows again that the world's largest food maker is keen to up its presence in the world's emerging markets. Hsu Fu Chi's announcement may not lead to a deal but it follows Nestle's recent investment in Indonesia and an acquisition in Serbia. Moreover, as MF Global analyst Andy Smith notes, Nestle's confectionery business has "struggled" to match the sales growth of some of its other divisions in part as the unit is "skewed" to more mature markets.
And, while we are on China, last week, within an insight section that included a look at the new strategy to revitalise UK chocolate maker Thorntons, an analysis of Premier Foods' continued woes and our latest management briefing (which covered the rise of social media), we published our latest two-part Category crunch feature on the infant formula market in the fast-growing economy.
And, finally, on the subject of social media, it's your last chance to benefit from the findings of our social media survey. To get a run down of the full results, all you need to do is spend five mins taking part, which you can do by clicking here.
Until next time...