Aeon Co, the Japanese supermarket operator formerly known as Jusco, has acquired a 26.1% equity stake in rival Inageya Co for ¥15.7bn (US$126.3m), to become the largest shareholder in the group.

Aeon president Motoya Okada revealed to a news conference that Aeon had acquired the stake from Shuwa Corp., a Tokyo-based real estate company. It is planned that Aeon will sell back 11% of its stake to Inageya, but will remain the primary shareholder.

“We will sell the 11% stake portion to Inageya as an early time because we understand Inageya’s position of cherishing its independence,” said Okada.

Okada denied that the acquisition of such a large stake in Inageya was intended to smooth the path for an eventual takeover. Aeon will not have representatives on the Inageya board, nor will in consolidate Inageya’s financial results into its own financial reports.

Inageya operates a network of 126 stores in Tokyo and a number of surrounding prefectures.