UPDATE 3-Brazil clears Pão de Açúcar's appliance stores deal

Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:00pm EDT

* Antitrust agency approves huge merger of appliance chains
    * Retailer to sell 74 stores under regulatory accord
    * Pão de Açúcar announces $1 bln investments in 2013


    By Leonardo Goy and Brad Haynes
    BRASILIA/SAO PAULO April 17 (Reuters) - Grupo Pão de Açúcar
SA, Brazil's biggest retailer, won regulatory
approval on Wednesday for its 2009 purchase of the Casas Bahia
and Ponto Frio appliance chains in exchange for selling less
than 8 percent of their store fronts.
    The retailer said in a securities filing that it will sell
74 stores generating about 3 percent of gross revenue for its
Viavarejo home appliance unit, formed by the acquisitions. But
it said it still expects to "capture all the cost savings of the
merger."
    Brazilian antitrust watchdog Cade approved the deal "with
restrictions" earlier on Wednesday, requiring Pão de Açúcar to
sell assets in 54 cities generating annual revenue of 900
million reais ($450 million). The retail group's net sales
revenue was 51 billion reais last year.
    The Cade approval will allow Pão de Açúcar to continue with
the final consolidation of the deal, but highlights regulators'
desire to show their teeth in defense of Brazil's growing
consumer class. 
    Shares of Pão de Açúcar fell 1.8 percent to 103.80 reais in
afternoon Sao Paulo trading and are down 2.2 percent this week,
on track for their biggest weekly loss in three months. 
    Pão de Açúcar also announced on Wednesday that shareholders
had approved plans to increase investments to 2.02 billion reais
in 2013. The retailer invested 1.58 billion reais last year, in
line with 2011 but below the 1.8 billion reais target it had set
for 2012.
    
    The company aims to boost investments by 80 percent over the
next three years, according to local media reports. The focus of
capital spending this year will be 100 new Minimercado Extra
supermarkets, executives have said, as it targets smaller cities
with less direct competition. 
    Convinced they can outperform in a cooling market, Brazil's
biggest retailers are stepping up investments in new stores this
year and could expand their floor space more than their sales,
according to industry estimates.
    Pão de Açúcar agreed to buy Ponto Frio in June 2009 and
Casas Bahia in December 2009, forming a retail giant via a
complex asset swap valued at about 4 billion reais. The
resulting Viavarejo numbers about 1,000 of Grupo Pão de Açúcar's
more than 1,600 stores.
    Cade ruled in 2010 that Pão de Açúcar would have to keep the
brands, stores and management of the Casas Bahia and Ponto Frio
chains separate until the agency's final ruling. 
    French group Casino took control of Pão de Açúcar 
from its founding family in June 2012.
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