Carrefour seen eyeing Brazil listing to help fund expansion

Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:06am EST
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By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters) - The appointment of a financial and IPO expert to head its Brazilian operations signals Carrefour (CARR.PA: Quote) may list a stake in that business, as Europe's largest retailer looks to accelerate growth in a key market without adding to its debt.

With its core French business on the mend, Carrefour chief executive Georges Plassat has said he wants to speed up expansion in the fast-growing emerging markets of Brazil and China, but has yet to say how.

In October, Plassat signaled he was gearing up for an offensive in South America's top economy by naming 56-year old Charles Desmartis to head the holding company controlling all of Carrefour's Brazilian operations.

Desmartis' mission is to renovate an ageing store network and take on competitors Grupo Pao de Acucar (GPA) (PCAR4.SA: Quote), owned by France's Casino (CASP.PA: Quote), and Wal-Mart (WMT.N: Quote).

But after a big drive to cut Carrefour's debt, Plassat is anxious that any extra investment does not drive borrowings back higher, leading to speculation of a partial listing in Brazil.

"They must accelerate in Brazil without weighing on the balance sheet. The idea would be that Brazil finances itself," said Raymond James analyst Cedric Lecasble.

"Any solution that would combine an acceleration in Brazil with a solid balance sheet would be well received by investors."

Desmartis' experience in spearheading the initial public offering (IPO) of Schlumberger's smart card unit Axalto in 2004 and as head of Carrefour's financial controls since 2011 has added to speculation that a Brazilian listing is in the works.   Continued...

The logo of Carrefour is seen at the entrance of the Carrefour's Bercy hypermarket in Charenton Le Pont, near Paris, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau