Germany investment company Franz Haniel & Cie has said it will reduce its stakes in retail giant Metro Group in a bid to reduce debt.

The investment firm will reduce its interest in the German retailer by 4.24%, taking his shareholding from 34.24% to 30.01%, it said in a statement. It is also reducing its stake in drug wholesaler Celesio.

"This is a decisive step for Haniel on its way to significantly reducing our net debt
position at holding level as previously announced," said Haniel CEO Stephan

The position in Metro will also be adjusted within the next 18 months, it said. Following the reduction of the stake, Haniel will remain the largest shareholder in Metro.

"With the adjustment of the respective stakes, Haniel continues to maintain
significant strategic influence at both companies and will continue to pursue its
interests in a constructive way," Gemkow said. "We are convinced of the sustainable value potential of Metro and Celesio. Therefore, both remain long term core investments in the Haniel portfolio."

Kepler Capital Market analyst Fabienne Caron said the move from Haniel higlights the need for Metro to" maintain its dividend flat this year (EUR1.35)".

He added: "Besides, there are recurring comments on Reuters that Auchan is close to buying Real Eastern Europe (around EUR2bn sales). We have set an equity value/sales of 30% but industry contacts highlighted it may be too generous. All in all, we do not see this as having a significant impact on Metro's strategy."