Carrefour retreats from Switzerland

PARIS (Reuters) - French retailer Carrefour CARR.PA said on Tuesday it was withdrawing from the Swiss market with the sale of its 50 percent stake in Swiss hypermarket operator Distributis AG.

Carrefour said it had agreed to sell its Distributis AG stake to Swiss retailer Coop in a deal based on an equity value of 470 million Swiss francs ($390 million) for the whole of Distributis.

Carrefour said in a statement that the deal was part of its strategy to sell off non-core assets.

“We didn’t have enough critical mass in this market,” said a Carrefour spokeswoman.

Carrefour has said it is keen to boost shareholder value, and its property assets have been the subject of much speculation after billionaire Bernard Arnault’s holding company teamed up with U.S. private property investment group Colony Capital to take a 9.1 percent stake in Carrefour.

Carrefour shares were up 0.1 percent at 48.05 euros in early trade, with France's benchmark CAC-40 index .FCHI down 0.4 percent amid ongoing concerns over credit market conditions.

“The price looks reasonable, but the deal is of a very modest size,” Natixis Securities said in a research note. Natixis kept an “add” rating on Carrefour and a 58 euros share price target.

Distributis, 50 percent owned by Carrefour and 50 percent by its partner Maus Freres, has 12 hypermarkets and had consolidated sales including tax of 504 million euros in 2006.

Maus Freres, which also runs the Manor non-food stores, is also selling out to Coop.

Distributis has a 1.1 percent share of the Swiss market.

German discount retailers Aldi and Lidl have been trying to win Swiss customers from co-operative groups such as Coop, which is the country’s second largest retailer after Migros.

Based on latest prices, Carrefour shares have risen by around 5 percent since the start of 2007, outperforming a 1 percent gain in the DJ Stoxx European retail sector .SXRP.

additional reporting by Marcel Michelson