French Companies Bruised by ‘Yellow Vests’ Protests

By Sudip Kar-Gupta.

PARIS (Reuters) – French companies have this week revealed some 60 million euros ($69 million) of lost business from anti-government protests rocking the country, which could augur badly for the likes of supermarket chains Casino and Carrefour (PA:CARR).

Shares in retailer FNAC Darty fell on Thursday after the electronics goods retailer estimated a revenue hit of some 45 million euros from the closure of stores during the protests and fewer shoppers.

With no sign of the protests ending, Air France KLM said the unrest had reduced sales by 15 million euros — a relatively small figure for the Franco-Dutch airline but enough to push its shares down too.

The “yellow vests” (‘gilets jaunes’) movement – named after the fluorescent jackets all French motorists carry in their vehicles – started in the middle of November as a protest against a fuel tax but has since grown into a broader backlash against the government.

The demonstrations have been marred by violence that has led to shopping districts and tourist hotspots having to close down on some weekends.

“The impact will be felt first and foremost with those companies with a physical presence on the high street, such as FNAC Darty. But others will also be impacted, such as hotels group Accor (PA:ACCP) since the ‘gilets jaunes’ has been negative for tourism in Paris,” said Meriem Mokdad, fund manager at Roche Brune Asset Management.

Data on Wednesday showed consumer confidence last month fell to its lowest level in four years as consumer fretted about their purchasing power and ability to make large purchases – and figures later in January from Casino and Carrefour could reflect that.

Confidence was also down in France’s construction industry as a result of the protests, said HSBC, which said it was revisiting its valuation of Bouygues’ construction related business to better reflect the global environment.

“STANDSTILL”

Catering and food services group Sodexo (PA:EXHO) warned it had concerns for later this year. Sodexo owns Paris cabaret Le Lido, the Yachts de Paris luxury river cruising business and has the catering contract for a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

“We are more worried about the impact of the protests on the spring-summer tourism season,” said CEO Denis Machuel.
The FCD French retail association, which speaks for both supermarket retailers and upmarket department stores, estimated that there had been a revenue loss of around 2 billion euros over the course of November and December.

“Needless to say, you will have similar warnings from other big Paris shops. In essence the Champs Elysees has been closed every weekend for the last two months, so outlets such as LVMH and Le Bon Marché will get hit,” said Ion-Marc Valahu, fund manager at Geneva-based investment firm Clairinvest.

“The companies in Paris’ CAC-40 index will get impacted to a certain extent because the ‘gilets jaunes’ have brought the French economy to a standstill,” added Valahu.

The signs of bruising to French companies comes after a study in financial daily Les Echos this week showed that the country’s top companies had paid out dividends worth 57 billion euros last year, as President Emmanuel Macron pursued his reform drive.

Jerome Schupp, fund manager at Swiss investment firm Prime Partners, said that given the risks from the protests he would favor international companies over those exposed to the domestic French economy, such as Casino and Carrefour.

(GRAPHIC: Paris riots roil French equities – https://tmsnrt.rs/2QgkZSn)

(GRAPHIC: Protests slow French GDP – https://tmsnrt.rs/2zQhrf0)

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