Activist stokes unions fears of Carrefour break-up
PARIS Oct 20 (Reuters) - A proposal by U.S. activist investor Knight Vinke to split the chief executive functions at Carrefour is meeting strong opposition from trade unions, who fear it could pave the way to a break-up of the troubled French retailer.
"A dual structure, one for France-Europe and one for Asia-America clearly heralds a will to dismantle the Carrefour group, which the European Workers Committee denounces and strongly rejects," a statement from the European Workers Committee said.
The statement was issued after representatives from all Carrefour trade unions met in Bucharest earlier in the day.
Under a worst case scenario - in the event of the failure of Carrefour's plan to revamp its European hypermarkets - some analysts have been talking about a break-up of the group's business, which could see assets in Asia and Latin America split from the European assets.
On Wednesday, Knight Vinke Asset Management founder and Chief Executive Eric Knight called for Carrefour Chief Executive Lars Olofsson to be stripped of his chairman's role, blaming "serious governance problems" for the retailer's recent struggles.
Knight called on Carrefour's board to name an independent chairman "as soon as possible" and split the CEO functions between Europe and emerging markets.
The call - a week after Europe's largest retailer issued its fifth profit warning in a year - followed mounting speculation Olofsson's tenure at Carrefour may be over soon.
Earlier this year Knight Vinke, which owns 1.5 percent of the capital of Carrefour, led a successful rebellion -- that included Carrefour trade unions -- against Carrefour plans to spin off its property assets.
But the unions this time around fear jobs in Europe could be at risk and said that Carrefour needed "stability" to deliver on Planet, its crucial plan to revamp its European hypermarkets to boost sales and regain market shares.
Carrefour currently employs around 410,000 staff worldwide, including 1230,000 in Europe.
In France alone, Carrefour employs 115,000 people.
(Editing by David Cowell)
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