PARIS—French retailer Groupe Casino said Wednesday it would list its e-commerce business on the stock market in New York, riding a wave of interest in online retail.
Casino, which historically operates supermarkets, said it would create a separate unit grouping its e-commerce activities in France, Brazil, Colombia, Thailand and Vietnam. Pooled together, the online businesses had $4.1 billion in sales last year, Casino said.
Interest in e-commerce is reaching fever pitch. On Tuesday, Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. filed plans to list shares in the U.S. The initial public offering could easily value the company at more than $100 billion. Alibaba, which last year recorded $248 billion in transactions on its three retail sites in China, dwarfs Casino’s business.
Casino’s focus on e-commerce is one of its biggest avenues for growth, along with its presence in emerging markets like Brazil. Casino «has access to sustainable long-term growth and has been a master at diversifying its portfolio,» says Sanford Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne. «To state the obvious: online valuations are more attractive than food retail valuations.»
Casino declined to comment on the timing of its listing, or how much of the new unit it plans to float.
Casino sees its e-commerce activities as a complement to its bricks-and-mortar stores. In France, for instance, its Cdiscount site has become a major dealer in home electronics and appliances, drawing some business away from supercenters selling the same items. Yet Casino has also used its stores as a distribution network for e-commerce sales, in what it sees as an advantage over rival Amazon.com Inc.
In Brazil and France, Casino is expanding into more profitable marketplace activities on its e-commerce sites. On the e-commerce marketplace, Casino acts as a dealer for third-party sales, taking an 8%-10% cut, according to JP Morgan analyst Jaime Vazquez.
Casino said it could derive more synergies by grouping its e-commerce activities together. It expects to have more sway in negotiating with suppliers and better control its technology costs.
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