French supermarket group Casino Guichard today (16 January) said that it has exercised its right to first offer in connection with the Toro family's plan to sell its 24.5% stake in Exito, Colombia's largest food retailer.

"With 2006 estimated sales in excess of US$2.6BN for an EBITDA of around US$200M (on a pro forma basis), Exito is highly profitable and the merger with Carulla Vivero will provide further potential for increased profitability and value generation," Casino noted in a statement.

The French group has offered COP13,052 (US$5.89) per share for the Toro family's 51,250,868 shares.

According to the Exito shareholders' agreement, Casino and the Toro family have 15 days to agree on the sale procedure. If no agreement is reached, the Toro family will sell the shares on the Colombian stock exchange. Casino would then have to extend the offer to other shareholders under the Columbian stock exchange rules.

Casino reiterated its commitment to achieving a net-debt-to-EBITDA ratio of less than 2.5 by the end of 2007, taking into account the EUR2bn disposal programme announced in March 2006.