By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) - The boss of Carrefour said on Friday the retail sector was bound to consolidate in the coming years, notably in France, as competition intensifies, and that his mission was to make sure the French retailer came out a winner.
When asked if Carrefour could exit underperforming countries such as Italy or China, Alexandre Bompard told an annual shareholders meeting he was confident his overhaul plan "could improve the operational situation in each of our countries".
Carrefour, which is Europe's largest retailer, is in the midst of a five-year plan it launched in January 2018 to cut costs and jobs, boost e-commerce investment and seek a partnership in China with Tencent.
Carrefour's plan, which also entails a greater focus on areas such as fresh local products, organic food and sustainability, is aimed at helping the retailer boost profits and revenues, and tackle competition from Amazon.
"There are a lot of competitors in markets like Italy or in France and weak sector margins and we are only at the beginning of the arrival of large platforms like Amazon. There will be difficulties and consolidations in coming years," Bompard said.
"My mission is to be in the winners' camp and the transformation we are conducting will put us among winners,"
Last year, Carrefour and French rival Casino were locked in a dispute after Casino said it had rejected a tie-up approach from Carrefour that Carrefour denied making.
Since then, Casino's parent Rallye has filed for protection from creditors.
Meanwhile, French rival Auchan has sold most of its loss-making business in Italy, while it also faces tough market conditions in France.
Last month, people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Carrefour was exploring the sale of a minority stake in its loss-making business in China and had started sounding out potential buyers.
The group has, however, said a sale of the business in China was not on the agenda.
In line with Carrefour's ambition to become a leader in the global transition towards healthier and more sustainable food, its shareholders on Friday approved a new mission statement to include its commitment to the transition in its bylaws.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Mark Potter)