July 26, 2018 / 6:09 AM / 5 months ago

French retailer Casino to sell 15 pct of Mercialys, keeps goals

PARIS, July 26 (Reuters) - Retailer Casino, which is facing investor concerns about its high debt levels, said it was making progress with its assets disposal plan, with the sale of a 15 percent stake in its Mercialys property unit.

Casino also said it had received indicative offers for other assets representing around half of its 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) disposal plan.

Casino, which reported improvements in profits in its core French market in the first-half, also kept all its financial goals and its deleveraging goals in France.

Casino said it had reached agreement for the definitive sale of 15 percent of Mercialys through an equity swap with a bank for 213 million euros.

Casino, which controls Brazil’s top retailer Grupo Pao de Acucar, added that first-half operating profits reached 439 million euros, down 2.4 percent from 450 million a year-ago as negative currencies in Brazil weighed on earnings.

The group, whose credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s in March 2016, is under pressure to show it can revive profits in France, where it competes with bigger rivals such as Carrefour, while conditions in Brazil stay tough.

Excluding currency impacts, group operating profit rose 10.3 percent on an organic basis in the first half. In France, its operating profit from retail operations grew 17.3 percent on an organic basis.

For 2018, Casino has forecast organic growth of above 10 percent in consolidated profit, excluding tax credits, and for organic growth in French operating profit, excluding real estate activities, also above 10 percent.

$1 = 0.8523 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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