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French retailer Casino sells shares in Brazil’s Assai to cut debt

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PARIS — French supermarket group Casino said on Monday that it had launched a stake sale in Brazilian cash-and-carry chain Assai as part of its general debt-cutting plans.

Casino is aiming to complete a 4.5 billion euro disposal plan by the end of 2023, and analysts welcomed the Assai move, which follows the sale of its majority stake in renewable business Green Yellow earlier this year.

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Shares in Casino rose 1.6% in early trading, although the stock remains around 50% lower since the start of 2022 due to lingering concerns over Casino’s debts and its low cash flow.

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Casino said it was selling 140.8 million shares in Assai, representing 10.4% of the Brazilian company’s share capital, and that it could sell a further 3.7% later.

Based on Assai’s closing share price of 19.21 Brazilian real ($3.55) on Nov. 25, the sale of 140.8 million shares would be worth 2.7 billion reals ($499 million).

“Casino remains on track to continue selling non-core assets such as Green Yellow and Assai to reduce its debt burden. With the proceeds, Casino will continue to buy back bonds as it did a month a go by doing a tender at par on the 2023 bonds,” said Ion-Marc Valahu, fund manager at Geneva-based firm ClairInvest.

“Casino still has a lot of convincing to do but so far the debt plan is on track. The shares have been hit hard and cut in half this year, but we still prefer playing Casino bonds on the long side,” added Valahu.

Casino said the Assai share sale would take the form of a secondary public offering conducted by Itaú BBA, BTG Pactual, JP Morgan, Banco Bradesco, Banco Safra and Santander. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Edmund Klamann, Subhranshu Sahu and Alexander Smith)

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