The Office Depot France unions are particularly upset. “Victim of the Aurelius vulture fund, the State lets it happen”: about 150 employees of the office supplies company, in receivership, gathered on Tuesday in front of the Lille Métropole commercial court located in Tourcoing, worried about a possible liquidation in the spring.
The commercial court, which examined the cash flow statement during the interim hearing, pronounced the continuation of activity at least until April 20, date of a new hearing. The German investment fund Aurelius, shareholder since 2017, was neither present nor represented.
The treasury “in an impasse […] end of May »
“Everyone has concluded that there is a problem with the shareholder,” said Sébastien Fournier, secretary of the central social and economic committee (CSE) after the closed hearing. “We will be in a cash flow impasse at the end of May. If we do not have a solution in mid-May, the company will disappear, ”he added to the employees who came to Tourcoing at the call of the intersyndicale Unsa, CFTC and CFE-CGC.
Potential buyers have until Friday to submit their offers. “About twenty potential candidates” have come forward, the management reported. In addition, according to a source close to management, “a recovery plan could be made as part of a project with the current shareholder”.
A new direction in March 2019
Specializing in office equipment and supplies, Office Depot France, which employs 1,750 people, currently operates 60 stores, e-commerce sites as well as three warehouses and 22 distribution platforms, according to management. According to employee representatives, the company still had 1,871 employees in France in 2019, against 1,584 a year later.
A new management, which arrived in March 2019 with a transformation plan, aimed to return to profitability from 2021 while the group says it has suffered a drop in turnover of nearly 20% in 2020. “France is not not in the pan-European, residual strategy of Office Depot, ”acknowledged Guillaume de Feydeau, President of Office Depot France. “The company has been experiencing losses for some time […] This cost of restructuring, the shareholder did not wish to pay ”. “The shareholder wanted to put the subsidiary up for sale in May 2020. A solution has not been found. So I decided to put myself under the protection of the commercial court, ”he added. The demonstrators for their part called on the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, to take a stand.