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Carrefour Retreats from Switzerland in Stake Sale

French retailer Carrefour said on Tuesday it was withdrawing from the Swiss market with the sale of its 50% stake in Swiss hypermarket operator Distributis.

Carrefour said it had agreed to sell its Distributis stake to Swiss retailer Coop in a deal based on an equity value of 470 million Swiss francs ($390 million) for the whole of Distributis.

Carrefour said in a statement that the deal was part of its strategy to sell off non-core assets.

"We didn't have enough critical mass in this market," said a Carrefour spokeswoman to explain why Carrefour had decided to withdraw from Switzerland.

Carrefour has said it is keen to boost shareholder value, and its property assets have been the subject of much speculation after billionaire Bernard Arnault's holding company teamed up with U.S. private property investment group Colony Capital to take a 9.1% stake in Carrefour.

Distributis, 50% owned by Carrefour and 50% by its partner Maus Freres, has 12 hypermarkets and had consolidated sales including tax of 504 million euros in 2006.

Maus Freres, which also runs the Manor non-food stores, is also selling out to Coop.

Distributis has a 1.1% share of the Swiss market.

German discount retailers Aldi and Lidl have been trying to win Swiss customers from co-operative groups such as Coop, which is the country's second largest retailer after Migros.

Carrefour shares closed at 48 euros on Monday. The stock has risen by around
5% since the start of 2007.

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