PARIS — Kering, which is in the final stages of selling La Redoute, has in the past five years invested more than 400 million euros, or $535 million at current exchange rates, in the struggling French catalogue retailer.

Kering president and chief executive officer Francois-Henri Pinault shared that figure on Tuesday during a meeting with Lille mayor Martine Aubry. He also assured Aubry and other elected officials that Kering is studying offers from three potential buyers with a view to minimizing the impact on employment.

Kering’s recent disclosure that it expects the transaction to have a “significant” impact on jobs ignited a maelstrom of criticism in the French media, with Aubry accusing Kering of being “irresponsible” in an interview published in the Journal du Dimanche. Union officials claim that as many as 700 positions are at stake.

Kering, formerly PPR, said Aubry was reminded that plans to dispose of Redcats – part of a broader plan to exit retail to focus on fashion and accessories in the luxury and sport/lifestyle segments – was first made public in 2009.

The prospect of job losses at the firm based in Roubaix has become a hot political topic amidst a backdrop of high unemployment and economic stagnation in France.

Facing a steady decline in its mail-order business, La Redoute in 2008 announced aplan to shed up to 672 jobs over a four-year period, at the time representing about 13 percent of its total workforce.

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