Amazon Gains French Beachhead in Deal With Casino's Monoprix

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is taking aim at France, securing a delivery deal with Casino Guichard Perrachon SA that shakes up one of Europe’s most competitive grocery markets.

Groceries from Casino’s Monoprix stores will be sold via Amazon’s Prime Now service in Paris and the surrounding region, the companies said late Monday. The move comes as Amazon pushes further into food in Europe and supermarket price competition heats up among Casino, Carrefour SA and closely held Leclerc in France.

Casino rose as much as 9.7 percent early Tuesday in Paris.

Amazon’s deal in France follows its acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc. in the U.S. and partnerships with European grocers such as Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc in the U.K. as the e-commerce giant pushes beyond books and electronics into the trickier business of delivering food to homes.

Casino has been building up its online operations, striking a deal with Ocado Group Plc in November under which it’s licensing the U.K. online grocer’s order fulfillment technology. In the Amazon partnership, Monoprix will provide items from its own stores and warehouses for the delivery service.

The agreement is “highly complementary” for the companies and their customers, Monoprix Chief Executive Officer Regis Schultz said on a call.

With a population of 67 million -- roughly that of California and Texas combined -- France is a ripe target for the e-commerce giant as it expands in Europe. But Amazon has struggled to match the breadth and speed of its services in the U.S., and its selection of products for same-day and next-day delivery in France remains meager by comparison.

Price Competition

Supermarket price competition has intensified in France amid a stagnant economy. While the country’s grocers have lagged behind in home delivery, their click-and-collect services -- called “drives” -- have thrived.

The Amazon-Monoprix partnership is “90 percent focused on food,” the U.S. company’s country manager for France, Frederic Duval, said on a call. He declined to comment on whether the partnership would add additional services through Monoprix, which also has a significant dry-goods business, or whether Amazon might pursue deals with other French retailers.

Casino rival Carrefour has been moving to counter Amazon by revamping its web offer, consolidating an extensive stable of niche e-commerce sites and expanding its sales of own-branded products and organic groceries under new CEO Alexandre Bompard.

Leclerc, known for steep discounts in its giant out-of-town hypermarkets, recently said it would open several Paris locations in a bid to grab a share of an urban market that offers higher margins than the rest of the country.

Casino’s deal with Amazon is a “very defensive move,” aimed at protecting Monoprix from Leclerc, Fabienne Caron, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, said in a note to clients. The deal will enable Casino to buy time until the Ocado partnership is up and running, the analyst said.

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