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Carrefour shareholders give new investors spots on board

Carrefour shareholders give new investors spots on board

Shareholders of French retail giant Carrefour SA named representatives from two key new investors to its supervisory board at the company's annual meeting Monday.
In a closely watched meeting, shareholders approved the nominations of Sebastien Bazin, head of Colony Capital's Europe operations, and Nicolas Bazire, adviser to French billionaire Bernard Arnault.
Groupe Arnault and Colony Capital, a U.S. private equity fund, are both members of the Blue Capital consortium that shook up markets by taking a 9.1 percent stake in Carrefour earlier this year. That makes them the second-largest shareholders after the Halley family.
The move thrust Carrefour into the spotlight, kicking off speculation that the Halley family could sell its stake, or that the new shareholders would push the second-largest retailer after U.S.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to unlock the value of real estate assets.
CEO Luis Duran insisted Monday that maintaining control of the property holdings is important to the company's strategy.
Shareholders also approved the nomination of Robert Halley, of the main shareholding family, to replace Luc Vandevelde as chairman of the board. Vandevelde was ousted from the family holding company in February and resigned from the Carrefour board in March.
The board now has 11 members, of which six are independent, three represent the Halleys and two represent Blue Capital.
Halley pushed aside talk that the new shareholders would pressure management to change the company's strategy.
"Blue Capital has pledged to be present in the long term, to support the current management strategy that has been in place for the past two years and support management. ... I don't think (Blue Capital's) presence will have a damaging effect," Halley told shareholders.
Duran, meanwhile, said the company was seeking to accelerate growth in high-potential markets such as Brazil, Indonesia and China, where it is already present, and branch out into Russia and India.
Annual store openings in China and Poland will increase three-fold to respectively 11 and 7 new stores a year. The group plans to double openings of hypermarkets in China to 22 a year.
He also dismissed reports that Carrefour had delayed its entry into India's market because of political opposition to foreign companies.
"We have not delayed our entry into the market," he said. "We are exercising prudence with choosing a partner. We are taking our time to choose a long-term partner."
Earlier this month, Carrefour reported a 58 percent increase in net profit growth for 2006 based on one-time gains, but continued to be plagued by weakness in its home market.
Carrefour shares were down 0.1 percent at euro56.69 (US$77.13) in Paris.


Updated : 2021-07-24 17:04 GMT+08:00