Foreign takeover of Carrefour a 'major difficulty' for government, says Le Maire

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The weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said a foreign company purchasing supermarket retailer Carrefour would be a "major difficulty" for the government because of the need to guarantee food security for citizens.

"Carrefour is a very strong company and I fully trust Carrefour to improve its model and to develop a new distribution model, but having Carrefour being bought by a foreign company would be a major difficulty for all of us," Le Maire said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference on Thursday.

In a surprise move, Quebec-based Couche-Tard said on Wednesday it submitted a non-binding 20 euros per share offer for the French grocery group, largely in cash, valuing the French company at 16.2 billion euros ($19.72 billion).

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(Reporting by Christian Lowe; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams)