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FILE PHOTO: Fuel nozzles are seen at a petrol station in Paris, France, September 18, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

French retailers E-Leclerc and Carrefour say they will sell fuel at cost

French retailers E-Leclerc and Carrefour say they will sell fuel at cost

By Blandine Henault and Forrest Crellin

PARIS (Reuters) -France’s two largest food retailers, E-Leclerc and Carrefour, said on Tuesday that they would heed the government’s call for petrol and diesel to be sold at cost price at the pump.

Ahead of a meeting between the government and distributors, supermarket chains E-Leclerc and Carrefour said they would sell fuel at cost price seven days a week from Friday.

“We are announcing the largest cost-price fuel sales operation in our history,” Carrefour said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that it would sell at cost price until the end of the year.

Michel-Edouard Leclerc, president of the eponymous supermarket chain, said on X that fuel at all 750 of its stores would be sold at cost from Sept. 29.

Leclerc framed this as an “act of solidarity with all customers frightened by the (price) increases and whose purchasing power is greatly impacted.”

He added the price would have to take into account supply conditions and decisions by oil companies.

The Systeme U group said it would sell at cost price over some weekends and could not afford to do it all the time.

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Fuel margins are on average about two euro cents per litre, said Systeme U CEO Dominique Schelcher, adding that the retail company’s next at-cost fuel price promotion would be the first weekend of October.

“It cannot be permanent,” he told BFM Television.

Meanwhile, oil major TotalEnergies said in a statement that it did not plan to do more than already offered, citing the capping of petrol at their stations at 1.99 euros ($2.10) since February.

To help people cope with inflation, the French government initially considered lifting a ban on fuel being sold at a loss, but revised its plan in the face of opposition from distributors.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said at the National Assembly earlier that Tuesday’s meeting with retailers would be about sending a “simple message” to lower prices and make margins transparent.

($1 = 0.9459 euros)

(Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Sharon Singleton)

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