Retailer Carrefour is considering selling its 11 hypermarkets in the Czech Republic, according to a report in the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes today (Thursday), cited by the Reuters news agency.

The daily reported that the French retailer had held talks for months about leaving one of the biggest markets among the new European Union member countries in central Europe.

One source told the paper that Britain's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, was the most likely suitor and that an announcement should be made soon.

Carrefour suffered a loss of nearly 0.5bn crowns ($20.65m) on its Czech operation in 2003, the last period for which its local results were available, the country's biggest mainstream daily said.

Czech representatives for neither Carrefour nor Tesco were immediately available for comment. A Carrefour spokesman in Paris declined comment.

Carrefour is considering selling non-profitable or non-core assets as it aims to rank among the top three players in the countries where it operates.

It is not among the biggest three in the Czech Republic, company officials say. The daily said it was eighth with annual sales of 11bn crowns ($454.4m).

Carrefour entered the Czech market in 1998. In March this year, it opened its third hypermarket store in the capital Prague and the 11th in the country.

In July, it ended cooperation with SK Slavia Prague after serving for four years as general partner of the soccer team that finished second in the Czech championship last season.