The boss of Couche-Tard was poorly received in France, according to French employers

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The boss of Couche-Tard was poorly received in France, according to French employers

In this International Francophonie Day, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux invites Quebecers to invest in France. “I would love for other Quebec entrepreneurs to come; That's jobs, wealth and taxes for the state! »

Alain Bouchard is the founder and chairman of the board of directors of Alimentation Couche-Tard.

The founder of the Couche-Tard group, businessman Alain Bouchard, should have been better considered when he wanted to get his hands on the retail giant Carrefour. The French government and the business community have shown condescension towards him, believes Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, president of the Mouvement des entreprises de France (Medef).

I regret what happened with Mr. Bouchard when he wanted to buy Carrefour. […] I say it very honestly. He was poorly received as he sought to expand his business. I think he would have been a great shareholder, says the businessman who has led French employers since 2018.

Let's go back to January 2021. That's when the Quebec owl tried to buy Carrefour and its 12,300 stores for the staggering sum of $25 billion.

But quickly, he there is water in the gas. In the midst of a pandemic, the French State considers Carrefour to be a strategic asset and decides to block the transaction.

In a last-ditch attempt, Alain Bouchard even made the trip to Paris to meet the French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, in order to convince him. But he remains inflexible. My position is a courteous, but clear and definitive no, said the minister at the time.

Last fall, during an interview with Patrice Roy, Alain Bouchard said the project failed because the transaction was leaked.

We learned with France that confidentiality is not like in America, where the rules are very strict. There, everyone talks. And it came out prematurely, very prematurely, he pointed out.

However, according to the president of Medef, Mr. Bouchard was also the subject of a form of condescension by because of his Quebec origins.

[The French state] shouldn't have slammed the door in your face like that. […] Afterwards, I do not know the details, it is a matter with the shareholders. But it was done clumsily, on the theme: it is not a small Quebec entrepreneur who will be the right shareholder for this large French distributor, laments Mr. Roux de Bézieux in an interview with Radio-Canada.

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Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux is the president of the Mouvement des entreprises de France.

According to him, Mr. Bouchard's journey should on the contrary have enthused the French.

“Now the deal has not been done . It's a shame that we have a great entrepreneur like that, that we didn't know how to welcome him better in our country. »

— Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux

Ironically, Couche-Tard has just made a major acquisition in Europe with the purchase of 2200 service stations of the French company TotalÉnergies.

Mr. Roux de Bézieux believes that this unfortunate episode should not discourage local entrepreneurs from settling in France.

I would be delighted if other Quebec entrepreneurs came to invest in France; it creates jobs, it creates wealth and taxes for the state, he says.

This is also what Karl Blackburn, president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), in an interview with Radio-Canada for the International Day of La Francophonie.

Karl Blackburn

The whole market of France, but also of the Francophonie represents real opportunities so that Quebec companies can shine internationally, he says.

There are 325 million French speakers in the world. In about forty years, we will be one billion, the third language spoken will be French. So for Quebec, there are real opportunities for growth, continues Mr. Blackburn.

His French counterpart, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, also chairs the Alliance du patronat francophone . Mr. Blackburn is treasurer of the organization, which will meet in Quebec next June. The goal? Make connections, create relationships between business people and between French-speaking countries.

This will be the time for entrepreneurs to exchange with each other. So that what unites us, the Francophonie, can become a vector of growth, believes Mr. Blackburn.

In total, the Alliance brings together 28 employer organizations from French-speaking countries representing 16 % of global gross domestic product and 20% of trade.

Language is very important in the economy of the future. It is very underestimated in the way we see economic exchanges. We want to meet the bosses. We have operational working groups, calls for tenders in French, on digital, […] distance training, etc., explains Mr. Roux de Bézieux.

If the European and African markets bring several perspectives for local entrepreneurs, Quebec is just as attractive for business people from France.

Quebec is the best of both worlds. It is the dynamism, the entrepreneurial spirit that there is on the North American continent. It is stronger than in France. […] It is the natural access door to the North American continent, launches the president of Medef.

Quebecers have kept the "< em>no bullshit" […] There is this direct side that the French do not have, we are more complicated. It's very pleasant to trade with them, he continues, laughing.

If the economic Francophonie is alive and well, it remains a daily challenge for entrepreneurs in Quebec, believes the CPQ. There is always added pressure to use the English language, it's a daily issue, explains Mr. Blackburn.

But, according to him, the medium des affaires understands the advantage of speaking French, and the saying to be born for a bun has been much less relevant in recent years.

You have to relax. We don't have the language of wood and [we can] prove to the whole planet that even if we are a Quebec company, a small drop of French-speaking water in an English-speaking ocean, we are able to hold our own, he said.

In France, where English expressions have flourished in recent years, we also understand the importance of keeping French in business circles, even if it does not is not always easy.

We are less obsessed with the subject for a very simple reason: we have less of this feeling of being surrounded. Me, I am bilingual, but I avoid English […] Within Europe, even if the United Kingdom has left, when there is a meeting with Germans and Italians, we exchange in English, because it is the common denominator. But we can do better, underlines Mr. Roux de Bézieux.

The latter also welcomes the commitment of Prime Minister François Legault to promote the Francophonie in trade, made during of the last Francophonie Summit, held in Djerba, Tunisia.

I thought that was the right attitude. The more exchanges we have, the more cross-investments we will have, the more we will speak the language.

I feel that he has clearly understood that, for Quebec, the Francophonie is a springboard for economic growth, concludes Mr. Blackburn.

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