CA Earnings Call NUGGETS: Commercial Performance, Price Strategy
Edouard Aubin – Morgan Stanley: Two questions, one on the balance sheet structure and then also on the commercial performance. You said that you want to reduce the cost of – financial costs in the future. Over the next 18 months, will you increasing Company capital? Will be the listing of your operations in Brazil and then also as regards to commercial performance, could you tell us roughly a differential in terms of a turnover per square meter as compared to the Leclerc and Auchan and what you plan to do over the coming years to reduce that differential?
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Unidentified Company Speaker: Okay, well as regard to the balance sheet structure increasing capital, no answer. I understand why you are asking that question. I don’t have an answer to it. I think that as we go, as the capital increases, well it’s not something that we should do, but if we do go for it then it will be for good reasons, but in consultation with our shareholders, and so, we haven’t envisaged at this point, but we have to stay on the move as it were to generate some fresh money in the coming months. Now are you from Morgan Stanley? Okay. So, I understand why, you want to fill up your program for the coming months, but I am looking to answer your question. In fact, our business in Brazil is very fine. We didn’t speak about this, but Brazil has gone through tough times for different reasons, but now it’s on the rise again. The superstores are becoming popular. That’s all I have to say on that.
Unidentified Analyst: (indiscernible). You know the textile industry very well, what is the market – what is the best market share as we got superstores in these products.
Unidentified Company Speaker: Well, textiles in hypermarkets, involves (lady wear) and I think you’re aware of that. As regards textiles, in all our stores it’s below 8.5%, 8% on average but when we have a look at the value in absolute terms, indeed this is very good business, and I am convinced that is we focus on the really good products, which are not necessarily in direct competition with the things that you mentioned, then indeed we can increase that percentage. However, as regards to textile products, in our superstores we have to work better on stocks.
Unidentified Analyst: Why? Is this true of all non-food products?
Unidentified Company Speaker: It’s because it’s more difficult to actually predict what the customer wants. I mean, for instance, temperatures are changing and they can have an effect on textile products. I mean have a look at happened this year and then last year, in last summer and this is a first – obviously the third season in fact. So I think that the idea is to remove the seasonal nature of these prices that were. Now as regards, okay, seasonal change, we can focus on that. That’s one thing, but indeed the figures are still quite good, quite remarkable. Microphone please. No, don’t yell, you have got a fantastic voice, it’s a nice voice. But I have two questions, you didn’t mention as regards to France, well in the AGM you said wasn’t necessarily a good idea to have 1,000 stores in France, what about differentiation between hypermarkets and convenience stores, are you thinking in terms of supermarkets? Now also in the AGM you said that a lot of talent had left the Group, and you mentioned the terms well-sedated referring to those people today, which is not as strong as the term you used before. No, but you think that the people still have the wherewithal to move Carrefour Banque?
Unidentified Company Speaker: Well, of course to be clear, of course you have to be a fairly simple. There aren’t many people in fact you have that totally, you had a wrong approach in fact. It doesn’t take many of them in fact to completely send the Company astray, but as regards well people have been sedated indeed. I mean, you might have a few people who are totally twisted in their thinking, number of people who have fallen asleep and that can cause a problem. Now, have I answered your question as regards to these twisted minds and the people who have fallen sleep? Okay, I have been using the same to same thing for 40 years, in other words under a dead leaves you have fungus. So I think that indeed we have still the talent within the Group, but we can’t stifle that to talent. There are two types of talents. You have talent that can be fragile and that might go by the way side, and others who want to exercise their talents elsewhere, but there is talent within the Company and I’m convinced with that, as regards to the formats. That’s your question. I think that intellectually speaking, in fact there should be convergence, but indeed we can’t really go for that in practical terms. When there’s convergence, when you’ve got the same brand, with the strength of Carrefour, when you put that on other models as it were, then indeed there is immediate euphoria, because Carrefour is a banner which is known right throughout the world and which is one of the crown jewels of France. Whatever the health of Carrefour, when you transfer Carrefour to a smaller store like a supermarket, then there are expectations, even new expectations. People say, well that Carrefour is moving in here, whereas the other company wasn’t working very well. So there are two problems in fact. Enthusiasm has waned, even if convenience stores are doing well, supermarkets are still very dynamic, but there is price confusion. I’ve seen this in Casino. Casino wasn’t a superstore chain. They had a small number of superstores, but in Casino, they had a major problem in the large cities. They were specials on some products and indeed that resulted if people went and bought in a supermarket, then you were considered as a thief. The cost of the square meter of space in fact is not same. It’s higher and the next month when there is (preparation) on sardines, in fact these source had to get rid to them, let’s say there is a difference between impulsive buying and a thoughtful buying on the part of the customers. Now, as regards the price policy, we can’t adopt a mechanical approach and say that there is a certain percentage between the different models. We can’t operate on that basis. There is another solution and the branches should be operational. They should be able to control their promotions and their prices with a macro centers at work or prices. Now, we have one store that’s opened already, one that’s about to open. Don’t get too keen, but there is a simple solution. You have logos, you have banners. You’ve got this logo, use the logo. It’s a well-known logo, but if beside that logo, you put market, put these colors or city put this color or mountain and so on so forth, showing a pine tree, I mean you have a company which is under the umbrellas that were of Carrefour’s experience, but they will immediately understand the function of those stores and once you’ve understood the functions of those stores, then indeed the principle is not the same. I mean going to a store in the center of Paris on a Sunday morning is not at all the same experience as going to a superstore. As regards the comparable groups, let’s look beyond Carrefour how many banners and brands are there today, how many? Six or seven major ones, have you heard about them? We have heard about Samsung and (indiscernible) six or seven of them basically. The Casino Group how many banners do they have? We are talking about banners here in fact. We are talking about banners here and not brands because the banner is that’s what you go for. The brand comes in but we are not a brand, we are – then how many brands – how many banners do we have in the Group?
Pierre-Jean Sivignon – Chief Financial Officer: This is not a straightforward question. I mean look at Casino and what it’s become today. They didn’t call (Monocle) casino. They didn’t requisition it. They have got a spa. They have got (indiscernible) and others. I mean my successor put the Casino into (indiscernible). That didn’t solve the problem, in fact it worsened the problem and indeed since there are many superstores in Brazil, I mean they are going to nationalize the flagship, but that’s a question of the concept. In fact the retailing has become multi-local as it were. There is something that is very strong between the consumer and the banner. If you buy a business you don’t necessarily have to stick the Carrefour banner on it, the consequence of a convergence let’s say. Atacadao stores were set up in Columbia and Argentina, I went there, and the person in fact was getting blue paper. It was the printout of their email in fact and they said change this to Atacadao – from Atacadao in Argentina and in Columbia and put Carrefour, now they did that, and what do you think happened? Customers of that model were not the same as the hypermarket or hyper stores customer and so they went elsewhere. So it’s a fairly straightforward concept. So, now we’ve dealt with the convergence of twisted minds and those who were somewhat sedated.
Unidentified Analyst: I’m from Canal Plus. We’ve spoken about the 500 or 600 jobs they are going to go by the wayside. Will there be new waves of redundancies over the coming months?
Unidentified Company Speaker: I said no.
Unidentified Analyst: Why? What do you mean by that? Do you mean that job suppressions have been sufficient now and as regards human resources? You’ve streamlined things because we heard that there will several waves of these departures over the coming months?
Unidentified Company Speaker: Well, I can’t explain to you why we don’t do things, I mean, things particularly that we haven’t announced ourselves, because what you’ve seen in the press, I mean, that was being said even before I came to Carrefour. In January last year I think, there was already a question of this. So it was said that 3,000 to 4,000 jobs would go, and that information was even out by the Group. That’s all I have to say. I’d like to stress this point because the way you put your question and because of the way you put your question, in fact, these will be people who will be leaving in and of themselves, in fact these will be voluntary departures. What does that mean? It means that there is going to be dialogue. We’re going to talk to the people. We consider that perhaps their jobs are not only useful to the Group and therefore and they have a negative impact on profitability but there might have other proposals to do something else and so these will be voluntary redundancies.
Unidentified Analyst: Couple of questions, one for Mr. Plassat. Can you give more color or quantify then the rationalization of the assortment that you referred to and the timing, so perhaps quantify the reduction in the number of SKUs and so on? Also a comment on your price strategy, what changes do you think need to be implemented? One for Pierre-Jean, last year there was another financial expense line of €275 million in the financial line of €750 million, so it’s a very substantial number, a third. This first half we’ve seen another big number, €100 million. Can you tell us the level of recurrence of this other line? Should we expect them to disappear at some point and therefore a big reduction into 2013 perhaps?
Georges Plassat – Chairman and CEO: Let me answer, I can’t see him, but I have heard his question. I will answer in French. As regard to the second point you raised, most of the differential between fixed cost and the total of the line, these were penalties for delays on tax litigation that we mentioned last year. This year it was the same story. Now, I consider still that these are extraordinary items and this will disappear when this tax litigation ends in the countries that are concerned. We are working on that. So, these involve tax litigations and these are extraordinary items. When we modelize the Company, in fact, this is not something that should be included in the models as regards to the value of account. This should not go on and on. Rationalization of the asset, well things will be done gradually. I mean in our business any sudden thing will indeed the customers more than it does the Company. So, if we do things suddenly and abruptly indeed that might affect the customers and so, therefore, we have to bring in things gradually. You have to phase things in. Now, as to prices, Carrefour in France is very well placed as regard to prices. We don’t need or want to be the cheapest on the market as regard to products and services. Others have claimed to be the cheapest on the market, but they use very strange methods for that. Now, the system, that system is absolutely absurd, but this was commented on by Mr. Kevin, who is a very talented economist and that approach indeed at least people seeking the lowest price possible. Whatever caused the problem for France as regards that currently is that we have a multiplication of selling space, with a change in legislation, we’re trying to attract the customer on false pretenses. So, we’ve got fuel prices that are three to four sometimes lower than the fuel sold by all our competitors since the beginning of the year. We have advertised about this and that has fit into our price image, which has improved over the recent months, look I’m talking about France not the whole Group, there are different problems in other parts of the world, but I mean it’s very important for France as some other countries were to indeed improve. So, we’ve got a good price image, of course things still need to be done and that’s why I think we should streamline the assortment, so that we can strengthen the available space for the biggest brands and come up with a win-win operation with our suppliers and then pass that price drop on to the customers. I consider that at Carrefour has disclosed too much in the past, we’ve given far too much detailed information to the public on our operating results and income. Specialists and analysts in the banks know that. In fact, we disclosed too much and we mustn’t figure that indeed, we’re in a business, I mean we’ve got a lot of details as we got the development practices. There is lot of information on that, but as we got price balances and so on and so forth, we won’t be giving out that information anymore. I will give it on a one-to-one basis to people who need a deeper explanation of our methods, but it shouldn’t be made public. I mean why there was a question in fact on textile products in Belgium, why some products sold for 20, something less. So, I mean look at Walmart Communications, you’ve got U.S. and the rest of the world and we believe in what we’re doing well and so on. No, not for us that’s not possible, and so you see if your excellent then you want to give out what is making you excellent. I think that was the question about this, Xavier can you hear me, no because we can’t see you Xavier. You are in the dark spot there.