Venezuela arrests TV execs after US firm pulls out

DirecTV managers “voluntarily surrendered” to authorities and were held at the intelligence service headquarters in Caracas, known as El Helicoide. (AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2020

Venezuela arrests TV execs after US firm pulls out

  • DirecTV’s departure leaves two million subscribers in limbo

CARACAS: Venezuelan authorities have detained three DirecTV executives after the US-owned television service’s decision to shut operations in the South American country due to US sanctions, their lawyer said.

“I hope there is justice in this country,” Carlos Villamizar, vice president of strategy for DirecTV, told reporters before surrendering himself.

Villamizar said that he was “very, very surprised,” at the warrant issued against him and his former colleagues Hector Rivero and Rodolfo Carrano.

He was accompanied by lawyer Jesus Loreto, who said the other two managers had “voluntarily surrendered” to authorities and were being held at the intelligence service headquarters in Caracas, known as El Helicoide.

Former DirecTV employees expressed solidarity with the trio on social networks, with the hashtag #DIRECTVSomosTodos (We are DirecTV) trending on Twitter.

The arrest warrants were issued almost three weeks after AT&T announced on May 19 its “immediate” withdrawal from the pay TV market in Venezuela, where it offered the DirecTV satellite platform.

Under the terms of its pay TV license granted by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, DirectTV was obliged to carry private news network Globovision and PDVSA TV.

Texas-based AT&T said that it was forced to close the television operation because US sanctions banned the transmission of Globovision and PDVSA TV, the channel of the Venezuelan state oil company.

The three arrested executives “did not participate in what happened, they did not know what was happening,” the lawyer said.

Three days after AT&T’s decision to close operations, Venezuela’s highest court ordered the seizure of the company’s facilities and equipment. The board of directors at the company that provides the DirecTV service in Venezuela, Galaxy Entertainment, have also been barred from leaving the country.

DirecTV’s departure has left two million subscribers in limbo, with soccer fans deprived of the popular Futbol Total program, which was broadcast by DirecTV Sports for Latin America.

Under Donald Trump, Washington has been seeking to oust the leftist Maduro and the Venezuelan president, many of his top government allies and PDVSA are all subject to US sanctions.


Canadian firm pulls out of Carrefour takeover after France insists ‘No’

Updated 16 January 2021

Canadian firm pulls out of Carrefour takeover after France insists ‘No’

  • Carrefour has more than 12,300 stores in more than 30 countries and employs 320,000 people worldwide
  • Canada's Couche-Tard has offered to take over the French supermarket giant for 16 billion euro ($19.5 billion)

PARIS: Canadian convenience store chain Couche-Tard has reportedly pulled out of a multi-billion euro takeover of supermarket giant Carrefour after the French government said it would veto the deal.
Negotiations over the 16 billion euro ($19.5 billion) deal ended after a meeting between the French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire and the founder of Couche-Tard Alain Bouchard, Bloomberg news agency said, citing sources.
French ministers had insisted Friday they would not agree to the takeover because it could jeopardize food security, an even more important consideration given the coronavirus pandemic.
In an attempt to reassure ministers, Bouchard had promised to invest billions in Carrefour, said he would maintain employment for two years and that the group would be listed on the Paris Stock Exchange in parallel with Canada, Bloomberg reported.
Contacted by AFP, neither Couche-Tard nor Carrefour had confirmed the information on Friday evening.
Although talks had stopped, anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg said negotiations could resume if the French government changes its position.
But on Friday, France’s Economy Minister made his choice public, telling BMTV and RMC: “My position is a polite, but clear and definitive ‘No’.”
“Food security is a strategic consideration for our country and one does not just hand over one of the large French distributors like that,” Le Maire said.
“Carrefour is the biggest private sector employer in France with nearly 100,000 employees,” he noted, and the group accounts for 20 percent of the food distribution market in the country.
The French statements have not convinced the Canadian government.
A Canadian federal source said while they could understand concerns over allowing a foreign firm to take over such a large national employer, concerns over food security were unsubstantiated.
“But we cannot accuse a leading Canadian company like Couche-Tard of endangering the food sovereignty of an entire country,” the source, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

'Food sovereignty'
On Wednesday, Couche-Tard submitted a non-binding offer for Carrefour, valuing the group at more than 16 billion euros ($19.5 billion).
Le Maire made clear immediately that he was not in favor of a deal involving “an essential link in food security for the French, of food sovereignty.”
The government’s reaction had caused “surprise” at Carrefour itself, according to sources who said the comments were “premature” given that merger discussions had barely begun.
“We haven’t decided yet whether the interest shown is attractive for us,” one company official said on condition of anonymity earlier in the week.
Carrefour has more than 12,300 stores of various formats in more than 30 countries and in 2019 generated a net profit of 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) on revenue of 80.7 billion euros ($97.4 billion).
It employs 320,000 people worldwide.
Couche-Tard has a worldwide network of more than 14,200 stores and earned a net profit of $2.4 billion on sales of $54 billion in its last complete year.
In the United States and several European countries, as well as in Latin America and southeast Asia, it operates under Circle K and other brands.