French retail group Carrefour is leaving the Greek market after two decades of strong presence in the supermarket sector, as it announced on Friday that it is selling its 50 percent stake in the joint Carrefour-Marinopoulos company to the local Marinopoulos group, confirming the divorce that had been rumored since last fall.
This is certainly a smooth separation though, as the Greek group will now be the exclusive representative of Carrefour in Greece, Cyprus and the rest of the Balkans, while Jerome Loubere will be staying on as the local firm’s managing director.
Although the news had been long rumored, the decision to make the announcement just two days before Sunday’s general election has been interpreted as a move to protect the French group from any possible negative developments in the Greek economy. It also came a day after Emporiki Bank’s announcement that it was conceding its Balkan subsidiaries to its parent company, Credit Agricole, also from France.
The price for the 50 percent stake transfer to Marinopoulos was not announced, the Greek firm said, because the agreement signed on Friday is still pending regulator approval. However the French group said in its statement that it will gain 220 million euros from the deal.
Carrefour’s decision was dictated by its negative course in the Greek market over the last couple of years and the general economic meltdown that has seen a drop in consumption: In 2011 Carrefour-Marinopoulos suffered an 8.3 percent decline in turnover on a yearly basis. In the first quarter of 2012 the annual drop amounted to 15.9 percent.
Separately, General Electric said on Friday it is reducing its business in Greece to a minimum in order to reduce the effects of the sovereign-debt crisis. GE has annual sales of no more than 100 million euros in Greece, mostly in the healthcare industry, Ferdinando Beccalli-Falco, head of GE’s European and North Asian operations, told the press in Frankfurt.
“We have built in firewalls and minimized the amount of business we do in Greece,” Beccalli-Falco said. “We are taking all steps necessary,” he said.