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June 30, 2011

FRANCE: Casino again ups stake in Brazilian retailer CBD

Casino has again upped its stake CBD in a further twist in the battle for control of the Brazilian retailer.

By Dean Best

Casino has again upped its stake CBD in a further twist in the battle for control of the Brazilian retailer.

The French retailer lifted its shareholding in CBD from 37% to 43.1%, it said today (30 June).

The move came two days after a Brazilian investment fund issued a plan to merge CBD with the local operations of Casino’s French rival Carrefour.

The proposal, put forward by investment vehicle Gama and backed by the Brazilian National Development Bank, would ultimately give Carrefour 50% of CBD, also known by its trading name of Grupo Pao de Acucar.

Casino co-owns CBD with Brazil’s Diniz Group, headed by Abilio Diniz, through a holding company called Wilkes.

The French firm claims a 2005 deal with Mr Diniz means it has the right to become CBD’s sole shareholder in 2012.

Speculation of talks between Diniz and Carrefour first emerged last month, angering Casino, which filed for arbitration with its co-investor in CBD.

Casino believes the Gama proposal confirms “illegal and secret” talks between Diniz and Carrefour had been held and it labelled the plan “a long-standing, illegal, planned financial transaction”.

In a statement, Casino said today that its fresh investment in CBD “reaffirmed” its commitment to Brazil and to the retailer.

Casino added that its increased stake does not alter the corporate control of CBD, which continues to be through Wilkes.

Jean-Charles Naouri, Casino’s CEO, has called on Diniz to convene a meeting of the Wilkes board to discuss the Gama proposal.

In a letter to the CBD board on Tuesday, Naouri said no deal could be made without the “required approval from the controlling shareholder Wilkes”.

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