Japanese retailer Aeon said it has been in “talks” with Carrefour of France following a report that it was planning to buy the French retailer’s eight Japanese outlets, according to the AFP news agency.

“The two firms have been engaged in certain discussions although I cannot disclose the nature of the talks,” Aeon spokesman Manabu Ohshima said in response to a report that Aeon had decided to buy Carrefour’s stores.

The Asian Wall Street Journal on Wednesday said Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer, had decided to pull out of the Japanese retail market and had sealed a deal to sell its eight stores in Japan to Aeon.

The deal was expected to be announced later this week when Carrefour is scheduled to report 2004 results, the report said, citing a source familiar with the situation.

“As the auction has dragged on since October, Aeon is likely to have bargained down the price significantly from the roughly 300 million dollars that other potential bidders, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. … had considered,” the report said.

The French retailer opened its first store in Japan to great fanfare east of Tokyo in December 2000 but it has since struggled to turn a profit.