German retail giant Rewe has said reports it is considering a sale of its Billa supermarket operations in Italy are “unfounded”.

The retailer is reported to be looking to sell the chain as a result of the operations continuing to suffer losses from the “problematic integration” of some 120 stores acquired in 2001, according to Lebensmittel Zeitung. Potential buyers are reported to include Conad and Coop Italia, the publication noted.

A spokesperson for Rewe, however, told just-food today the reports were merely “speculation” and were “unfounded rumours”. She declined to comment further.

The decision, Lebensmittel Zeitung noted, would be consistent with recent statements by Rewe CEO Alain Caparros the company would consider withdrawing from markets where it is not able to obtain a top three market share position.

The retailer, however, announced an investment in October last year of EUR20m (US$25m) per year to 2016 in expanding its Billa supermarket network in Italy.

Rewe said the investment is designed to strengthen its presence in northern Italy, where the decline in consumer spending as a result of the economic crisis is felt less than in the south.