SAO PAULO Oct 24 (Reuters) - French retailer Carrefour SA hired two investment banks to prepare an initial public offering for its Brazil unit, according to a report published on the website of business magazine Exame late on Thursday.
The listing of its operations, including hypermarket brand Carrefour and wholesale brand Atacadao, should begin in earnest in January, according to the report, which did not indicate how the information was obtained.
A representative for Carrefour declined to comment on the report. In March, Carrefour Chief Executive Georges Plassat denied that the group was planning a listing in Brazil. He later said he hoped to prepare a growth plan for the market by the beginning of 2014.
Brazil has provided Carrefour with robust sales growth as it struggled with weak demand in austerity-stricken Europe. But recent growth rates in Brazil have lagged the country's biggest retailer, Grupo Pão de Açúcar, which is controlled by French rival Casino Guichard Perrachon SA.
Carrefour is the second-biggest retailer in Brazil and its local operations are worth an estimated 15 billion reais ($6.8 billion), Exame reported, based on revenue of 31.4 billion reais last year.
Carrefour hired the investment banking unit of Credit Suisse Group and Itaú BBA, a unit of Brazil's biggest bank, Itaú Unibanco Holding SA for the preparations, according to Exame. Through its press office, Itaú BBA denied the report.
Representatives for Credit Suisse Group could not immediately be reached on Thursday evening.