PARIS, Sept 1 (Reuters) - French luxury goods billionaire Bernard Arnault has sold out of supermarket group Carrefour (CARR.PA), the retailer he first invested in 14 years ago and whose potential takeover by Canada's Couche-Tard unravelled earlier this year.
Arnault held a 5.7% stake via his Financiere Agache holding company, which raised 724 million euros ($854 million) by selling shares on the market in an accelerated bookbuilding process, bookrunner Societe Generale said on Wednesday.
Carrefour shares were down 4.48% at 0908 GMT.
The Agache stake was sold at 16 euros per share, after Arnault, alongside Colony Capital and Axon Capital, first took a 9.8% holding in 2007 at an average price of 47 euros per share.
Carrefour has been through several transformations, with shareholders benefiting as it spun-off businesses, including its DIA supermaket chain.
A source familiar with the situation, asking not to be named, said Agache had not lost out financially over the years, in part because of dividends, although analysts at Bryan Garnier estimated he was leaving at a loss.
Arnault was one of its three big shareholders, along with the Moulin family and Brazilian businessman Abilio dos Santos Diniz.
He had already sold down a small chunk last September, however, and Agache said it was refocusing its investments. The group mainly has holdings in fashion and luxury, and took a stake in sandal maker Birkenstock in February.
His departure comes just as Carrefour's overhaul under Chairman and Chief Executive Alexandre Bompard is yielding results.
"Over the last four years, Carrefour has achieved an outstanding recovery under the management of Alexandre Bompard," Arnault said in a statement. "After 14 years during ... we have decided to pursue the reorientation of our investments."
Carrefour renewed Bompard's mandate at the helm for three years in May. He has spearheaded cost cuts and an e-commerce push to boost sales and profits.
Arnault, France's richest man, was supportive of Bompard in January when the executive was in talks with Canada's Couche-Tard about a takeover deal, sources said at the time. Couche-Tard eventually dropped its bid of nearly $20 billion for Carrefour after it ran into opposition from the French government. read more
Bompard has since acquired Grupo BIG, valued at around $1.3 billion, and asserted Carrefour was viable on its own.
($1 = 0.8478 euros)
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