Kepler suspends some supermarket coverage following 'intimidation' of analyst

LONDON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - French brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux has suspended some of its coverage of the European supermarket sector after one of its analysts “received anonymous intimidation attempts”.

Kepler told clients analyst Fabienne Caron had been the subject of intimidation for some of her publications on food retailers, but declined to give any further details about the nature of the intimidation or which publications were involved.

The brokerage, formed in 2013 when Kepler acquired CA Cheuvreux from Crédit Agricole CIB, said it had for now stopped giving its investment views on French supermarket operator Casino and German group Metro.

Responsibility for covering Casino is being handed to Pierre Boucheny, head of French equity research, Kepler said in an Aug. 18 note to clients. It had rated Casino “reduce”, the note showed.

Boucheny told Reuters Kepler had also informed the authorities it had suspended coverage of Metro. He declined to comment on when the broker would reinstate its analysis of the companies.

“They (authorities) have been informed, of course, both in France and Germany,” Boucheny said. “We will see if it makes sense to return the coverage.”

A Casino spokesman said the group strongly condemned any action of intimidation or threat against anyone. “We have noted the change of analyst. We have obviously nothing to do with the matter,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Metro said the company values diverse reporting about Metro and welcomes all analysis and publications regarding the company. “We unreservedly condemn all attempts to intimidate Fabienne Caron,” she said.

Shares in Casino - which owns Monoprix and Franprix among other supermarkets - suffered their biggest monthly decline ever in July after it posted an underlying first-half loss of 87 million euros.

Metro said in August that a sales decline in its fiscal year through September would be limited to between 3.5% and 5%, because its business with hotels and restaurants had perked up since May thanks to a gradual easing of lockdowns.

German regulator Bafin and French financial market regulator AMF separately confirmed they had been informed of Kepler’s suspension of coverage of Metro and Casino. The AMF spokeswoman also said the regulator is required to inform French prosecutors of the situation. (Reporting by Joice Alves Additional reporting by John O’Donnell in Frankfurt and Matthieu Protard in Paris Editing by David Holmes)