By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) – Shares in French retailer Casino were suspended on Wednesday pending a statement, boosting speculation a final debt restructuring deal with creditors led by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky to avert bankruptcy could be imminent.
In July, France’s sixth largest retailer reached an agreement in principle with a consortium led by Kretinsky’s company EPGC – alongside Casino’s biggest creditor Attestor, and second-biggest shareholder Fimalac – to restructure its 6.4 billion euros ($6.7 billion) debt pile.
The deal, which massively dilutes shareholders, would bring an end to the 30-year reign of Casino CEO and controlling shareholder Jean-Charles Naouri, 74, who controls Casino via his listed holding company Rallye.
Under the timetable released in July, the consortium aimed to finalise a binding lock-up agreement by Sept. 30 and complete all restructuring in the first quarter of 2024.
On Sept. 29, Casino extended the deadline to Oct. 3, fuelling expectations an announcement was to come this week.
In a statement issued late on Wednesday, the group said that following a court decision in favour of a grace period Casino had requested, payment obligations for some of its debt notes remain suspended while Casino is pursuing talks with creditors.
Casino shares, which have lost 88% of their value so far this year, were suspended for one day on Wednesday at the request of the company, which did not comment on the state of restructuring talks with Kretinsky and his partners.
Under the July agreement, 1.2 billion euros of new money would be injected into Casino. The consortium led by Kretinsky would end up owning between 50.4% and 53% of Casino shares.
($1 = 0.9537 euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel,; Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)