Carrefour group CFO Matthieu Malige sees international opportunities for the firm

Carrefour has adopted a selective, growth-based approach in its international presence strategy, laid out by its CFO Matthieu Malige at its latest shareholder meeting. While the approach is already delivering dividends seen in the group’s financial results for 2019, it could be an even more precious asset in the post-coronavirus environment.

France-based multinational retail group Carrefour is intent on harnessing the potential of the world’s most dynamic regions to ensure that it can sustain its growth trajectory over the next decade.

This is the vision delivered by its chief financial officer, Matthieu Malige, as he commented on the company’s results and prospects at its latest annual shareholder meeting, held on May 29th 2020.

Coming out of 2019, the group can boast a solid performance, with a growth of 3.1% for its sales over the year, one of its better results in the recent period, which indicates the success of its latest strategic and financial plan. Carrefour also managed to significantly decrease the size of its debt over the same period, with a reduction of more than 1 billion euros after accounting for exchange-rate variations.

But the more interesting part of the story is not in these good news for the group’s overall financial health. It rests in the international sources of growth that it managed to tap in recent years to ensure a continued and smooth expansion in a sector which faces tremendous challenges from the rise of e-commerce and now, of course, the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Matthieu Malige, CFO of the group, laid out some of the most crucial aspects of the international strategy pursued by Carrefour in the presence of its shareholders, addressing the audience to reveal the countries and regions that the company expects to contribute the most to its growth in the coming years based on its recent performance there.

He highlighted the fact that one of Carrefour’s star markets for 2019 was Latin America, a region in constant evolution where consumer habits are rapidly shifting and the group’s ability to combine accessible prices with products selected for their quality can pay dividends over the medium and long terms. In 2019, Carrefour’s sales were up 14.6% in Latin America over the previous year, accounting for a good chunk of the company’s overall growth. Matthieu Malige mentioned Argentina and Brazil as two countries that the group was particularly focused on, with an ongoing business transformation plan in Argentina and the rapid development of Carrefour Retail, financial services, and Atacadao, a wholesale hypermarket chain in Brazil. The latter country was cited as a “growth steam engine” for the group. And sales were not the only financial indicator to go up in Latin America: Carrefour’s return on capital in the region also showed significant improvements, with a jump of 10% after accounting for exchange-rate variations.

While Latin America is one of the group’s big bets as a source of growth in the future, it continued to strengthen its position in high-potential regions all over the world. Return on capital in Taiwan was up 8% after accounting for exchange-rate variations for the year 2019, with Matthieu Malige signalling that “in Taiwan, growth for comparable stores has stayed on track.”

Last but not least, Carrefour is not forgetting its home continent, Europe, where it continues to identify growth opportunities in France’s direct neighbors as well as more remote countries such as Eastern European nations.

Matthieu Malige insisted on the fact that the competitive environment was particularly intense in the region, making it all the more important for the group to continue its expansion in promising business sectors such as e-commerce retail and organic foods. Spain was pointed out as a country where Carrefour could boast strong performances for the year, while Eastern Europe was mentioned as a region where the group was confident it could continue to achieve solid results thanks to the attractiveness of its commercial model and offer in the local context.

All in all, Carrefour’s growth-oriented, diversified approach to international presence offers the group greatly increased resilience in the face of disruptions such as the one brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the careful watch of Matthieu Malige, it can expect to reap the financial benefits of its approach while continuing to sustain and export a model that has repeatedly proven its success in recent years.

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