On Tuesday, October 22 at the end of the day, Carrefour published its results for the third quarter of 2019. While the group is pleased to confirm the financial objectives of the Carrefour 2022 plan, some of whose results are beginning to appear, Carrefour's difficulties are far from over. to be resolved. Sales in France declined by 0.9% like-for-like. Worse, French hypermarkets, which account for half, tumble 3.6%. On this occasion, Challenges publishes the portrait of Alexandre Bompard, CEO of Carrefour, to the maneuver since July 2017.
Tuesday 1st October, our taxi tries to enter Massy. The city of Essonne horns, corked, pierced by the site of the future metro. Signs alert: “Modified Carrefour”, “Carrefour in work”. They do not believe so well. Because at 93, avenue de Paris, the distributor is also in full work since the appointment of his site manager, Alexandre Bompard. In January 2018, when the jackhammers attack Massy, 25 kilometers away, at La Défense, the CEO launched a huge transformation plan. Reduce the size of hypers, reach 5 billion euros of turnover in the bio, as much in food e-commerce, delete thousands of jobs … Everything is on the table.
A year and a half later, the successor of Georges Plassat welcomes us, tanned, with a broad smile, no tie, rolled up sleeves. Relaxed? No. “Alexandre is facing one of the most difficult transformations to implement in the CAC 40,” said his friend Arthur Sadoun, chairman of the board of Publicis. Under pressure, Bompard is in full scrum. Around him, 380,000 employees, who must move, quickly, in the same direction. In front of him, Amazon is throwing shoulder shots, specialists Decathlon and Primark are getting better, while cooperatives Leclerc, Intermarché and Système U are gaining ground. Carrefour, like the other integrated groups Casino and Auchan, suffers. Curbed by their lack of agility and the generous dividends to pay shareholders, they chained social plans and store closures. In twenty years, the value of Carrefour fell from 62.7 billion euros to 12 billion. Its market share has also melted. Two points separate him from the leader, the E. Leclerc Centers. This summer, Michel-Edouard Leclerc teased Bompard on Twitter on his delivery service. Stung, the CEO of Carrefour has tapped in return. “He is under the pressure of the impatient capital who recruited him,” says Leclerc. “It's more complicated for him than for me.”
With its 85 billion euros in turnover, Carrefour weighs ten times more than Fnac Darty, which Bompard sealed the union in 2016. His detractors hiss that he underestimated the task, his admirers that, if someone must succeed, it will be him. But how to deflect the liner from the threatening iceberg? Bompard found an initial answer: set a course by making Carrefour the leader in the food transition. Not really green, he understood that the consumer, he had converted. Takeover of So.bio, waste reduction, animal welfare … He multiplies the ads, annoying his competitors. Engaged on this path before him, they did not know how to make it an identity marker. “Alexandre arrives very quickly to define the right angle then to put it in narrative of an extraordinary way”, greets Alexander Viros, his ex-e-commerce director to Fnac Darty, now general director of OUI.sncf. “He has a vision so pegged to the body that we follow,” says Romain Roy, founder of the shopping site Greenweez, bought in 2016.
Motivate young executives? Easy. Cashiers, poorly paid and threatened with disappearance? Harder. To embark everyone, this tennis emeritus has just started a tour of France, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Carrefour. In the train, he bombards his SMS teams. “I can be annoying,” smiled the leader. In the group committee, he tried to soften the unions. Not easy when he cut more than 7,000 jobs in two years at the group's headquarters, in the Dia stores or in the hypermarkets. “He was outraged to say that the plan Bompard just dismiss,” said Philippe Allard, CGT delegate. “But he said that further restructuring will follow.”
A monarch and his court
To take the pulse, he went to Valenciennes in a supermarket of the new discount brand, Supeco, interviewed employees, listened to customers. From there to say, as his team says, that “Alex” is human, empathic, accessible? No. The thanked collaborators dryly evoke, them, a Bompard hard, cold, distant, who governs in monarch, surrounded by a court devoted of enarchs. “He works like crazy,” said Philippe Houzé, senior administrator. Because, on his desk, hot files pile up.
First of all, there is Carrefour's dramatic digital delay, which has forced it to spend 2.8 billion euros in five years to open 1,500 drives, to hire dozens of talented engineers and to form partnerships with Google and Publicis Sapient. Result: in the second quarter, Carrefour jumped 9e at 6e rank of the most consulted e-commerce sites in France, according to Fevad. “But are we where we should be?”, The boss says. “His goal is to be the best in the world,” said a close friend. A Bompard good everywhere.
Then there is the isolation of Carrefour, untenable in an omnichannel world. “I'm trying to see if, in certain territories, operations can help us strengthen our positions,” says this strategist, deemed deal maker. In April 2018, a first opportunity arises. Auchan, bound in purchases at System U, suddenly signs with Casino. Smelling the fresh flesh, Bompard throws himself on his prey. He calls Serge Papin, president of Système U, and convinces him to join forces with Carrefour. “The current is immediately past,” rejoices the successor of Papin, Dominique Schelcher. “What strikes me is his determination to move all the lines.” Second step: find an international partner. Crossroads eyeing the British Tesco. Problem: the boss, Dave Lewis, dismissed in the past by Georges Plassat, pouted. Persevering, persistent, hard-hitting, Bompard gets an appointment. He flies to London. Alone. He excels in the art of one-to-one. “His charisma and leadership are essential, even when he says nothing,” exclaims Caroline Dassié, executive director supermarkets France, he debauched Intermarché. The same evening, Don Juan Affairs put Dave Lewis in his pocket.
Beautiful address book
This international color is not innate to him. At Fnac, he spent most of his time in France. His career? He conducted it by drawing the same breadcrumb trail: “The transformation of French companies, which represent something for the French.” His power? The former inspector of finance pulls her from her Paris address book. He lives in the Marais, runs along the banks of the Seine. Lunch with the bosses, dine with the politicians. With time, however, he assures to have taken taste with the voyages. While visiting the ten countries of the group, he identified a dead weight: China. Arrived in the Middle Kingdom in 1995, with the idea of democratizing French trade, Carrefour has enjoyed fame. But he did not see the coming tsunami of digital. When he was appointed in July 2017, the new boss discovers a subsidiary that spits blood, but offers a gateway to 1.4 billion consumers, laboratory of the world of tomorrow. What to do? Bompard slice. He won a technological partnership with the Chinese Tencent, hoping to make a capital deal. Seeing the negotiations dragging on, he calls the local group Suning.com. Auctions are rising. On June 23, it is the latter that takes 80% of Carrefour China for 620 million euros. The subject is set.
Inspired by Tesco and Walmart
Remains a huge thorn in the shoes of the leader: France, where eight distributors engage in a merciless price war on a background of sluggish consumption. Carrefour has 246 hypers, in decline. Rather than close them, Bompard reduces their size by 400,000 square meters, and tailors the offer to the consumer profile. At the same time, it deploys 2,000 convenience stores. No impact on Carrefour's market share, which continues to crumble. “When I reduce the size of stores and assortments, and I invest in price-competitiveness, are these decisions essential? Yes,” replies Alexandre Bompard. “So the short-term market share is not the indicator I'm looking at.” He favors the development of organic food and e-commerce, the group's own brands and the improvement of customer satisfaction. His models? Tesco in Great Britain and Walmart in the United States, which hold 30% of their market. “In France, the sector is not concentrated enough,” insists the CEO. Carrefour controls only 20%. The Casino group, 11%. The calculation is quickly done. Especially as its CEO, Jean-Charles Naouri, strangled by the debts, has placed his parent company in safeguard procedure. And looking for fresh money.
So, for months, conjectures are going well: and if Alexandre Bompard had been chosen by the main shareholders, the Moulin-Houzé family, the Arnault group, and the Brazilian Abilio Diniz, to remake the story Fnac Darty and boost the stock price, by buying Casino? The boss of LVMH, Bernard Arnault, entered when the action was worth three times more, could finally come out. Philippe Houzé and Abilio Diniz would take their revenge on Jean-Charles Naouri, who has delighted one the nugget Monoprix, the other, the Brazilian GPA.
Casino in the viewfinder
In September 2018, discussions between Bompard and Naouri were initiated by Alain Minc. But when the first refuses to sign a clause prohibiting any OPA, the second tick. On 24 September, in the middle of the night, the Casino CEO issued a statement declaring that he was rejecting an offer from Carrefour. Bompard must deny. The game is frozen for months. Since then, the rumor returns like a boomerang. At the end of August, Casino announced a new plan to sell € 2 billion worth of assets to reduce debt. But Aldi negotiates the purchase of Leader Price. And it is in Leclerc, Système U and Lidl that Casino has been selling stores since January. The best enemies of Carrefour … “Our priority is to transform the company,” said its secretary general, Laurent Vallée, while conceding analyze the situation closely. Coincidentally, the Competition Authority is considering revising its merger guidelines. The last time she had softened her dogmas, was not it the CEO of Fnac who had given him the idea to marry Darty?
Recently, silver threads came to decorate the temples of Alexandre Bompard. On October 4, this father of three girls was 47 years old. “I do not like time passing too fast,” grumbles the one who sees his label as a young man in a hurry to take off. “To succeed, it will have to have the humility of time, and the shareholders too,” said Serge Papin. “It is in 2022 that we will judge,” says Philippe Houzé. “It will take years before Carrefour becomes a leader again,” confirms Nicolas Bazire, director representing the Arnault group. Bompard, who left Fnac a year after the takeover of Darty, will he wait? “You do not join Carrefour to make a move,” he replies. “I know the battle will be long.” One thing is certain: he is here to win. Determined. And focused.