PARIS — Pinault Printemps Redoute, the diversified retailer controlled by François Pinault, is on the defensive.

Instead of discussing its first-half sales, which dipped 1.5 percent to $13.21 billion Serge Weinberg, its chief executive officer, spent much of a conference call Thursday debunking market speculation about the group’s debt level, short-term financing and strategy concerning Gucci Group, in which it holds a controlling 53 percent stake.

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