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Rival Billionaires to Detail Rescue Plans for Casino

PARIS, July 11 (Reuters) - Rival bidders seeking to take over struggling French retailer Casino will present on Tuesday their respective plans to rescue the group, two sources close to the matter said.

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is vying against a consortium led by telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel, investment banker Matthieu Pigasse and businessman Moez-Alexandre Zouari to take control of Casino, which is saddled with net debt of 6.4 billion euros ($7 billion) and teetering on the brink of default.

Both camps will make presentations to Casino's management, court-appointed mediators and government officials at a meeting hosted by the French finance ministry, the sources said.

They will detail their plans on issues including pricing strategy, the future of the group's stores, sales and profitability goals, the sources said.

After the meeting, the mediators - who are overseeing negotiations with Casino's creditors - are likely to set a deadline for the rival bidders to submit their final offers, one of the sources said.

The finance ministry confirmed a meeting about Casino would take place on Tuesday without elaborating further.

Kretinsky is leading a 1.35 billion-euro investment plan to rescue Casino, dwarfing a proposal put forward by 3F, the holding led Niel, Pigasse and Moez-Alexandre Zouari.

The proposed cash injections are however only the first step in Casino's wide-ranging restructuring plan, which it has said will require a deal with debt holders within a court-led process. The deadline for an agreement in principle on the terms of the financial restructuring has been set for July 27.

The French government is concerned about possible job cuts at Casino, France's sixth-largest retailer. The group had about 50,000 employees in the country at the end of last year.

Regardless of which bid succeeds, existing shareholders will be wiped out, Casino has said.

Casino is facing the consequences of years of debt-fuelled deals that, following recent losses in market share and revenue declines, have put it on the verge of bankruptcy.

($1 = 0.9093 euros)

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Silvia Aloisi

Source: Reuters

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