By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) – Carrefour is looking at 2022 with confidence as it works on a new strategy that will allow the French retailer to step up digital expansion and be more resilient amid an increasingly uncertain environment, its boss said on Friday.
Carrefour, which last year failed to tie up with Canada’s Couche-Tard and France’s Auchan, has the financial means to expand as a standalone company, Chairman and Chief Executive Alexandre Bompard also told shareholders.
“Our group never had to face so many challenges,” Bompard said, citing the COVID and the climate crisis, resulting disruptions to supply chains and inflationary pressures made worse by the crisis in Ukraine.
“We are well armed, we have the right strategy to be reactive. We are going to do all we can to demonstrate that we can face up to these challenges in 2022,” he added.
Bompard, whom Carrefour reappointed in May 2021 to lead for another three years, is working on a new strategic plan and conducting an asset review as part of the process.
In November, Carrefour pledged to spend 3 billion euros by 2026 to step up digital expansion, one of the pillars of the future strategy plan Bompard is due to unveil in autumn.
Bompard said the new plan would take into account inflation.
“Carrefour will strive to protect the purchasing power of its customers while reinforcing its economic model,” he said.
Carrefour can look to Carrefour branded products, promotional activities and loyalty programmes as well cost savings, he said.
Bompard reiterated a target to generate free cash flow above 1 billion euros in 2022.
Cash is viewed as key to Carrefour’s plans to step up digital commerce expansion without the extra financial resources that would have been on hand if two planned tie-ups last year had not failed – one with Canada’s Couche-Tard and one with France’s Auchan..
“Carrefour does not need consolidation. It has the means of its development,” Bompard said, added that while Carrefour had been approached in the past by rivals, “today, we are not working on anything”.
Carrefour shares have gained 20% this year but are still down around 10% from their level when Bompard took over in July 2017.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by GV De Clercq)