By  on April 24, 2007

PARIS — Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer behind Wal-Mart, on Monday strengthened its position in Brazil by buying 34 discount hypermarkets.

The French company on Monday said it would acquire the country's Atacadao chain for 2.2 billion reais, or $1.08 billion at current exchange, making it Brazil's largest food retailer in terms of sales.

Atacadao reported net sales last year of 4 billion reais, or $1.97 billion. Carrefour, which operates 401 stores in Brazil, including 109 hypermarkets, had sales of 3.8 billion euros, or $5.07 billion, in the country last year.

The acquisition bolsters Carrefour's position in one of its faster growing markets and is in line with its strategy to build in promising markets while exiting less profitable ones. Carrefour, for instance, has sold operations in Japan, South Korea and Mexico, while bulking up in Poland. Meanwhile, it is preparing to enter the emerging markets of Russia and India.

Carrefour has struggled at home in France, where tepid consumer spending and fierce competition from discounters have created a tough environment. Last month, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chief Bernard Arnault and U.S. buyout company Colony Capital together took a 9.1 percent stake in the retailer, making them the second biggest shareholders after France's Halley family.

Speculation that disagreement among the Halleys may lead them to sell their 13 percent Carrefour stake has sent the company's shares spiking. Last week, however, Robert Halley, who took over as chairman last month after Luc Vandevelde was ousted, moved to dampen those rumors by telling a French daily the family remained committed to the company.

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