(Recasts with Plassat comments at AGM)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, June 11 (Reuters) - Carrefour Chief Executive Georges Plassat told shareholders on Thursday he would step up online expansion and efforts to give more power to local managers as he won a new three-year mandate to cement the French retailer’s turnaround.
“Carrefour is making strides. It has restored its image and I am proud of that,” Plassat told the company’s annual shareholders meeting.
“The future is to stay the course to remain a big global retailer,” Plassat said of the world’s largest retailer after U.S. giant Wal-Mart
Carrefour, which makes 73 percent of its sales in Europe, has suffered from a reliance on the hypermarket format it pioneered as customers shift to more local and online shopping, trends that have caused headaches for British retailers.
Since taking over as CEO in 2012, Plassat has led a recovery at Carrefour, focusing on price and cost cuts, accelerating expansion into convenience stores, and renovating stores to boost growth amid weak consumer spending.
Plassat said the group would continue these efforts but be more aggressive on online expansion as well as on innovation.
Plassat, 66, returned to the helm of Europe’s largest retailer in late April after recovering from surgery. .
Shareholders overwhelmingly voted on Thursday on a resolution renewing his mandate as board member for three more years. The age limit for Carrefour’s CEO is 70.
After the meeting one small shareholder even asked Plassat for an autograph as well-wishers flocked around the thinner but tanned chief executive.
While Plassat was recovering from surgery, Carrefour named Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Jean Sivignon and General Secretary Jerome Bedier as deputy chief executives to assist him
That structure will remain in place, Plassat confirmed.
“The size of the group, the competitive environment, political uncertainties require power at the group be spread among a greater number of people,” he said.
Shareholders approved all resolutions proposed at the meeting, including granting two board seats to representatives of France’s Moulin family, the French retailer’s top investor.
The Moulin family, which also owns French department store Galeries Lafayette, controls 9.5 percent of Carrefour.
“I am happy to have shareholders who know the group and its business well. We now have a solid core shareholding made of different retailers,” Plassat said
Other main Carrefour shareholders include Groupe Arnault, with an 8.99 percent stake, and U.S. investment fund Colony Capital with 5.80 percent. Groupe Arnault has two seats on Carrefour’s 14-member board. Colony has one.
Earlier this year Brazilian tycoon Abilio Diniz announced he had doubled his Carrefour stake to 5.07 percent, becoming the French retailer’s fourth-largest shareholder. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Keith Weir)