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UPDATE 1-Carrefour's Diniz hails Brazil IPO, shares slip

(Updates with stock performance, trader and analyst comments)

SAO PAULO, July 20 (Reuters) - Carrefour SA board member Abilio Diniz said on Thursday the initial public offering of the retailer's Brazilian unit shows the country is overcoming its harshest recession in a century as shares slipped in their market debut.

Speaking at an opening bell ceremony in the São Paulo Stock Exchange, the Brazilian retail tycoon and third-largest shareholder of Carrefour said the IPO will help the French retailer reach a "new level globally."

Still, shares in its Brazilian unit fell as much as 4.3 percent in Thursday trading before paring losses to 0.5 percent, at 14.92 reais in late afternoon trading.

The stock had priced at the 15 reais floor of a suggested price range in a deal that raised 5.12 billion reais ($1.6 billion). At that level, it would trade at similar multiples to rival GPA SA, which it recently surpassed as Brazil's largest supermarket chain.

"Carrefour overestimated the market's appetite for its shares," said Marcelo Garbes, head of equity trading at brokerage Tullet Prebon.

Analysts said Carrefour Brasil lacks a substantial competitive advantage to its rival that would justify higher share prices. Market share at GPA's food and staples division increased in the second quarter, though Carrefour Brasil has shown consistently higher profit margins.

In a Wednesday note to clients, analysts at UBS Securities set a "sell" recommendation on the stock, citing concerns that the company may be unable to compete on price.

($1 = 3.13 reais) (Reporting by Aluisio Alves and Bruno Federowski; Editing by Sandra Maler)