November 20, 2018 / 10:35 AM / 25 days ago

Debt-burdened retailer Casino names Lubek as new CFO

PARIS (Reuters) - Casino (CASP.PA), the French supermarket operator which is selling assets to reduce its debt, named David Lubek as chief financial officer to replace CFO Antoine Giscard d’Estaing.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of French retailer Casino is pictured outside a Casino supermarket in Nantes, France, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

Lubek, 45, joined Casino in 2013 as group controlling officer and has been deputy chief financial officer since the summer.

Giscard d’Estaing, 57, who had been with Casino for 10 years and is a nephew of former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, is leaving to pursue new projects, Casino said in a statement.

A spokesman for Casino said the change of finance director was “not related to current issues” facing the company.

“This is a well prepared transition,” the spokesman said.

Casino has embarked upon asset sales to reduce its debt and ease concerns over the financial position of both Casino and its parent holding company Rallye (GENC.PA).

Within the Casino group, dividends from Casino are used to maintain Rallye’s debt interest payments. Casino shares held by Rallye are also used as collateral to banks in order for Rallye to obtain financing.

Casino and Rallye have continually refuted criticism of their accounting policies and financial positions, with U.S. research firm Muddy Waters having issued a warning back in December 2015 over Casino’s debts and its financial structure.

Hedge funds have also targeted Casino and Rallye with “short” bets banking on future declines in their share prices.

Casino shares were down 0.7 percent in early session trading, with the stock having fallen by roughly 25 percent so far in 2018.

Barclays analyst Nicolas Champ and Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne both said Lubek’s appointment was not a surprise because Lubek had been very active in financial communication since summer.

“Everybody was seeing this coming and he seemed very knowledgeable,” said Monteyne.

One analyst who asked to remain anonymous said the move was “rather positive” as could mean “more clarity” in the accounting practices at Casino and Rallye.

A graduate of French elite school Ecole Polytechnique, Lubek previously worked at French insurer Groupama as chief audit executive and at the French finance ministry.

Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Leigh Thomas and Jason Neely

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