Swiss-based Dufry buying Folli duty-free ops

ATHENS, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Greek retailer Folli Follie

has agreed to sell a controlling stake in its local duty-free operations to Dufry , a Switzerland-based global travel retailer.

The Swiss company will pay 200.5 million euros ($258.6 million) for a 51 percent stake in Folli's duty-free operations, which includes a network of 90 shops at 45 locations across the country, the retailer said in a statement.

Dufry will have an option to buy the remaining 49 percent in four years' time at a fair market value, it added.

Folli Follie said in a bourse filing last month that talks between the two companies were at an advanced stage. The transaction is a rare deal to emerge in recession-hit Greece.

"I believe (the transaction) ... represents another big step forward in our strategy to consolidate the fragmented travel retail industry," Dufry Chief Executive Julian Diaz said.

"Greece is expected to remain an attractive tourist destination, irrespective of the current situation of the economy."

The European debt crisis has hurt tourism less than other sectors of the Greek economy. Tourism revenue is expected to decline just 5 percent this year, with more than 16 million visitors arriving, just slightly below a record 16.5 million last year.

Folli, one of Greece's most successful companies, sells jewelry and other accessories at about 800 stores in Europe, Asia and the United States. Its operating profit reached 84 million euros last year, on sales of 290 million.

The company took over Hellenic Duty Free Shops in 2010. Chinese private conglomerate Fosun owns 13.4 percent of Folli. ($1 = 0.7754 euros)

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by David Holmes)

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