Carrefour

PARIS — Shares in French retail giant Carrefour rose Wednesday, boosted by talk of a potential tie-up with Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard.

The group behind Circle K, Alimentation Couche-Tard said it offered 20 euros a share for a “friendly combination” with the grocery and hypermarket retailer.

On Wednesday evening, however, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire threw cold water on the idea, noting that Carrefour is the largest employer in France that plays an essential role in securing food for the country, and that the government was not in favor of the idea.

“Carrefour is an essential link” when it comes to food security for the French population, he said, noting that the grocery retailer proved vital services supplying food to the population during the coronavirus crisis.

“What’s at stake is food security,” he added.

Carrefour shares rose more than 10 percent in early-morning trading after the company issued a statement saying it had been approached for a tie-up with Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard.

“Carrefour has been approached, in a friendly manner, by the Alimentation Couche-Tard group with a combination project,” said the French retailer. “Discussions are very preliminary,” it added.

Alimentation Couche-Tard operates convenience stores and gas stations in North America and Europe, with franchise agreements in other parts of the world, including Mexico, Saudi Arabia, China and New Zealand.

Under the direction of Alexandre Bompard, Carrefour has been modernizing operations to meet shifts in consumption, bulking up omnichannel services through partnerships with Google and food delivery companies in a number of markets including Uber Eats in France and Belgium.

It has also bulked up its offer of organic produce, purchasing the French chain Bio C’Bon in November, and has emphasized local sourcing. The retailer earlier this month launched blockchain technology for its Tex Responsable bedding and apparel line, which will allow consumers to trace the origins of certain textile products as well as their organic certification.

Carrefour shares closed up 13.42 percent, or 2.08 euros, to 17.54 euros. Alimentation Couche-Tard has a market capitalization of $47 billion, while Carrefour’s market capitalization stands at $12.5 billion.