PARIS Several external candidates are still in the running for the top job at French retailer Carrefour (CARR.PA), with Fnac Darty (FNAC.PA) Chief Executive Alexandre Bompard seen as favourite, sources close to the matter told Reuters.
Europe's largest retailer has been searching since October for a successor to Georges Plassat, 68, whose mandate as chairman and chief executive expires in May 2018.
Plassat's preference is for an internal candidate to avoid any abrupt change but key board members such as Brazilian tycoon Abilio Diniz, Moulin family representative Philippe Houze and LVMH (LVMH.PA) head Bernard Arnault now favour an external candidate to lead a strategy rethink, sources say.
"Several external candidates are still in the running," one source said, cautioning that Carrefour had not yet made an offer to any of the potential candidates.
Another source said the candidates included 44-year-old Bompard and Alain Caparros, the 60-year-old outgoing chief executive of German retailer REWE, though the Fnac Darty chief was looking increasingly like the favourite.
Caparros, a French national who has been REWE CEO since 2006, has in the past ruled out moving to Carrefour.
Carrefour and its top shareholders declined to comment on the search process. Fnac Darty, which holds its annual shareholders meeting (AGM) on May 24, also declined comment.
The name of Plassat's successor is widely expected to be known before June 15, when Carrefour holds its AGM. The retailer's appointments committee is due to meet several times before early June to take a decision.
There has been much speculation about who will succeed Plassat, who took over in May 2012 and has undertaken steps to improve the performance of Carrefour, which is the world's second-largest retailer behind U.S. giant Wal-Mart (WMT.N).
Under Plassat, Carrefour has made progress in most of Europe and Brazil, its second-largest market, but a more sluggish performance in France, which accounts for 47 percent of sales and 44 percent of operating profit, has weighed on its shares.
Sources say leading shareholders such the Moulin family, Arnault and Diniz want someone who can address weak hypermarket sales in France and accelerate the retailer's online expansion in the face of competition from Amazon (AMZN.O).
Bompard is well known in French business and media circles for having won a fierce bidding war with Conforama for control of Darty last year, and Fnac shares have nearly tripled in value since its stock market listing in 2013.
Fnac Darty shareholders will vote on May 24 to grant Bompard a total remuneration package of 13.8 million euros (£11.8 million) for 2016.
(Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Clarke)