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July 1, 2011

BRAZIL: Diniz asks Casino to study Carrefour merger plan

Brazilian businessman Abilio Diniz has asked Casino, his co-shareholder in the country's largest retailer CBD, to examine the proposal to merge the business with the local operations of Carrefour.

By Dean Best

Brazilian businessman Abilio Diniz has asked Casino, his co-shareholder in the country’s largest retailer CBD, to examine the proposal to merge the business with the local operations of Carrefour.

The plan has angered French retailer Casino, which has labelled the idea as “illegal” and hostile”. Casino has also claimed it struck a deal with Diniz in 2005 to become the sole controlling shareholder in CBD, also known by its trading name Grupo Pao de Acucar, in 2012.

However, in paid advertisements in Brazilian newspapers today (1 July), Diniz said Casino should study the proposal, put forward by local investment fund Gama and backed by the Brazilian National Development Bank.

In the ad, Diniz asked Casino to look at the plan without “haste and emotion” and said: “I am convinced that the negotiations have taken place in a legitimate manner, in accordance with the Brazilian law, our shareholder accords and the principles of trade ethics.”

The ad followed a similar move from Casino on Wednesday, the day after the proposal was published. In its ad, Casino said Diniz had “deliberately ignored both the law and contracts as the fundamental principles of business ethics”.

However, in his ad, Diniz said Casino had “so far, dared, hastily and emotionally to condemn a transaction with no analysis”. He added: “The main question is …. Is the transaction good or not for Pao de Acucar?”

Speculation that Diniz and Carrefour had been in talks was first reported in May. Casino then responded by pointing to a 2006 deal with Diniz and said no discussions on “strategic projects” for CBD, Brazil’s largest retailer, could be held without the French firm’s agreement and involvement. The company also filed for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce.

When the proposal was published on Tuesday, Casino said it was a “long-standing, illegal, planned financial transaction between Carrefour and Abilio Diniz”.

Casino and Diniz own CBD through a holding company called Wilkes. In a letter written to the CBD and its CEO Enéas Pestana on Tuesday, Casino CEO Jean-Charles Naouri called for Diniz, in his capacity as chairman of Wilkes, to “immediately” convene a meeting to discuss the proposal.

Yesterday, Casino upped its stake in CBD for the second time in two weeks. The French retailer now owns 43% of the Brazilian company.

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