May 21, 2020 / 10:25 PM / 13 days ago

Brazil retail tycoon Diniz says local supermarkets were fast to adjust to COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Abilio Diniz, the third largest Carrefour shareholder, gestures during a meeting of the Council for Economic and Social Development (CDES) at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian retail veteran and Carrefour SA (CARR.PA) board member Abílio Diniz said on Thursday Brazil has been faster than some European countries to adopt new protocols to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Take Italy, France, Belgium and Spain, for instance, we did better with the protocols and Carrefour Brasil has registered very few cases of coronavirus,” Diniz told a webcast hosted by Brazilian supermarkets association Abras on Thursday night.

Diniz serves as board member for both the parent company Carrefour SA and its local subsidiary Carrefour Brasil SA (CRFB3.SA), as well as for Brazilian meatpacking firm BRF (BRFS3.SA).

His father founded Pao de Acucar, the company that would become decades later GPA SA (PCAR3.SA), one of the largest food retailers in Brazil. Diniz left GPA in 2013 after disagreements with French controlling shareholder Casino Guichard Perrachon SA (CASP.PA), a major rival to Carrefour both in France and in Brazil.

While major retail chains have been quick to adjust to the challenges brought by COVID-19, smaller retailers are struggling to keep operations going, according to Abras President João Sanzovo.

“Credit is not reaching the smaller firms and the government now has acknowledged it,” Sanzovo said.

Diniz agreed that access to credit is still difficult for small companies and said cash is key to survive the ongoing crisis.

“This is the most violent crisis I’ve ever seen as it is difficult to tell when it will end,” he said, adding supermarkets will likely keep coronavirus-related protocols in place for a long time after the pandemic is over.

Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Chris Reese and Lincoln Feast.

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