© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of French retailer Casino is pictured outside a Casino supermarket in Nantes, France, May 10, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) -French supermarket group Casino said on Thursday that it had finalised a deal to avert bankruptcy through a debt restructuring agreed with its main creditors, led by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky.
Casino was brought to the verge of default after years of debt-fuelled acquisitions and recent losses in market share to rival supermarket operators.
It said the binding debt deal was reached with the consortium led by Kretinsky’s company EPGC alongside Casino’s biggest creditor Attestor, its second-biggest shareholder Fimalac and the retailer’s secured creditors.
“Casino has reached a major milestone in its financial restructuring process by obtaining the agreement of its main creditors on a financial restructuring plan,” Casino CEO and controlling shareholder Jean-Charles Naouri said in a statement.
The deal massively dilutes shareholders and will bring to an end the 30-year reign of 74-year-old Naouri, who controls Casino through his listed holding company Rallye.
The lock-up finalises a July agreement in principle which called for 1.2 billion euros ($1.26 billion) of new money which would be injected into Casino, as well as a reduction of Casino’s debt by 6.1 billion euros.
Naouri said the binding agreement “creates a favourable framework for the sustainability of the group’s activities, the continuation of jobs and head offices, and the continued development of all its brands”.
Casino’s shares, which have lost 88% of their value so far this year and were suspended on Wednesday, were expected to resume on Thursday.
The retailer, which is now France’s sixth-largest supermarket group, said it planned to pursue discussions with the financial creditors not yet party to the lock-up agreement to get them to sign up to it too.
Casino reiterated it had until Oct 25 to obtain from a commercial court the start of an accelerated safeguard procedure under which it could approve the plan with the support of secured creditors and compel reluctant creditors to follow.
($1 = 0.9513 euros)