Carrefour’s new boss names retailer management team

Alexandre Bompard, who took over in July, is working on plans to try to revitalize Carrefour, the world’s second biggest retailer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 September 2017
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Carrefour’s new boss names retailer management team

PARIS: Carrefour’s new boss on Friday named his leadership team, putting the man credited with reviving the retailer’s Spanish operations in charge of turning around its business in France, its biggest market.
Alexandre Bompard, who took over in July, is working on plans to try to revitalize Carrefour, the world’s second biggest retailer, which warned last month its 2017 operating profit could fall by around 12 percent.
In France, which accounts for nearly half of Carrefour’s sales and 44 percent of operating profit, the group faces fierce price competition from online and other more nimble rivals.
Bompard has picked Pascal Clouzard, 54, CEO of Carrefour Spain since 2011, as executive director for France.
Clouzard has been credited by analysts for spearheading a recovery in Spain where Carrefour’s sales rose 2.2 percent last year. There has also been media speculation that he was on the list of potential candidates for the top job at Carrefour to take over from Georges Plassat.
Clouzard’s challenge will be to boost the performance of the group’s French hypermarkets, a goal that has eluded several predecessors because of cut-throat competition in France.
Analysts say Clouzard’s recovery recipe for Carrefour Spain was the development of convenience stores and acceleration of online.
Antoine Parison, analyst at Bryan Garnier, said: “I note that Clouzard, who has been developing online in Spain, is appointed to head France.”
Noel Prioux, executive director France since 2011, will become executive director Latin America, directly in charge of Carrefour Brazil, the group’s second-largest market. He replaces Charles Desmartis.
Another high profile appointment is an external hire — Marie Cheval, 43, who was the CEO of Societe Generale’s online bank Boursorama. She will become executive director customers, services and digital transformation, for both the group and France.
Investors want Bompard to catch up with retail’s major shift online, notably after Amazon’s $13.7 billion bid to buy Whole Foods Market, which sent shockwaves through global food retailers.
Bompard’s new team includes managers from within Carrefour like finance head Pierre-Jean Sivignon as well as four from outside the group who will bring complementary expertise, the retailer said.
Another of the external hires is Jerome Nanty, 56, who was Secretary General of Air France-KLM and who will head human resources for the group and for France.
The group’s new executive committee will comprise 14 members, who will take up their jobs from Oct. 2.
“The first task of this new team will be to define and implement the group’s transformation plan,” Carrefour’s statement said. Bompard said last month that he would provide details on his strategy by the end of the year.
Carrefour shares are down nearly 30 percent so far in 2017 — underperforming European rivals.
— Reuters


Malaysia reviews China infrastructure plans

Malaysia’s former PM Najib Razak (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Malaysia reviews China infrastructure plans

  • Malaysia's scandal-mired former PM Najib Razak signed a string of deals for Beijing-funded projects, including a major rail link and a deep-sea port.
  • New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced a planned high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore will not go ahead as he seeks to reduce the country’s huge national debt.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been a loyal partner in China’s globe-spanning infrastructure drive, but its new government is to review Beijing-backed projects, threatening key links in the much-vaunted initiative.

Kuala Lumpur’s previous regime, led by scandal-mired Najib Razak, had warm ties with China, and signed a string of deals for Beijing-funded projects, including a major rail link and a deep-sea port.

But the long-ruling coalition was unexpectedly voted out last month by an electorate alienated by allegations of corruption and rising living costs.

Critics have said that many agreements lacked transparency, fueling suspicions they were struck in exchange for help to pay off debts from the financial scandal which ultimately helped bring down Najib’s regime.

The new government, led by political heavyweight Mahathir Mohammed, has pledged to review Chinese deals seen as dubious, calling into question Malaysia’s status as one of Beijing’s most cooperative partners in its infrastructure push.

China launched its initiative to revive ancient Silk Road trading routes with a global network of ports, roads and railways — dubbed “One Belt, One Road” —  in 2013.

Malaysia and Beijing ally Cambodia were seen as bright spots in Southeast Asia, with projects in other countries often facing problems, from land acquisition to drawn-out negotiations with governments.

“Malaysia under Najib moved quickly to approve and implement projects,” Murray Hiebert, a senior associate from think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP.

Chinese foreign direct investment into Malaysia stood at just 0.8 percent of total net FDI inflows in 2008, but that figure had risen to 14.4 percent by 2016, according to a study from Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

However, Hiebert said it was “widely assumed” that Malaysia was striking quick deals with China in the hope of getting help to cover debts from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Najib and his associates were accused of stealing huge sums of public money from the investment vehicle in a massive fraud. Public disgust at the allegations — denied by Najib and 1MDB — helped topple his government.

Malaysia’s first change of government in six decades has left Najib facing a potential jail term.

New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced a planned high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore will not go ahead as he seeks to reduce the country’s huge national debt.

The project was in its early stages and had not yet received any Chinese funding as part of “One Belt, One Road.” But Chinese companies were favorites to build part of the line, which would have constituted a link in a high-speed route from China’s Yunnan province to trading hub Singapore, along which Chinese goods could have been transported for export.

Work has already started in Malaysia on another line seen as part of that route, with Chinese funding — the $14-billion East Coast Rail Link, running from close to the Thai border to a port near Kuala Lumpur.

Mahathir has said that agreement is now being renegotiated.

Other Chinese-funded initiatives include a deep-sea port in Malacca, near important shipping routes, and an enormous industrial park.

It is not clear yet which projects will be amended but experts believe axing some will be positive.

Alex Holmes, Asia economist for Capital Economics, backed canceling some initiatives, citing “Malaysia’s weak fiscal position and that some of the projects are of dubious economic value.”

The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to request for comment.

Decoder

What is the "One Belt, One Road" initiative?

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, started in 2013, has come to define the economic agenda of President Xi Jinping. It aims to revive ancient Silk Road trading routes with a network of ports, roads and railways.