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Carrefour Chairman Resigns After Investors Amass 10% Stake

The chairman of Carrefour, the world's second-largest supermarket retailer, resigned Wednesday only hours after it was disclosed that two new shareholders had amassed a nearly 10% stake in the company.

Luc Vandevelde is being replaced by Robert Halley of the Halley family, Carrefour's largest shareholder, the company said in a statement. Vandevelde had been under pressure from the Halley family, which has a 13% stake in Carrefour.

The resignation was announced after two shareholders disclosed they had bought into the French retailer, which trails only Wal-Mart Stores of Arkansas among the world's largest retailers.

Colony Capital and Groupe Arnault - French billionaire Bernard Arnault's investment vehicle _ said they had taken 9.8% of Carrefour. Colony Capital is a U.S. private equity fund.

The moves come a day ahead of the publication of Carrefour's 2006 earnings report. In January, Carrefour reported a 5.1% rise in revenue for 2006 to 87.4 billion euros ($113.5 billion).

The departure of Vandevelde, a Belgian, was "guided by the interest of Carrefour, its shareholders and its collaborators," the company statement said.

Last month, Vandevelde broke with Carrefour's founding Halley family _ two years after his arrival in a boardroom coup to replace ousted longstanding Chairman Daniel Bernard.

He left the Halley family's holding company Cintra in February amid what was described at the time as diverging views on investment strategy. At the time, both Carrefour and the Halley family said he would remain chairman of Carrefour's board.

Chief Executive Jose-Luis Duran remains in place at Carrefour. He was also appointed two years ago.

In a statement earlier, Colony Capital and Groupe Arnault said their arrival at Carrefour was "a long-term strategic and industrial investment."

"Colony Capital and Groupe Arnault consider that Carrefour, a world leader in its sector, has strong growth potential," it said.

They said they would work with the Halley family.

Carrefour shares fell 2% to close at 52.80 euros ($69.17) in Paris after being up 1.7% at midday.