(Updates share performance throughout)
SAO PAULO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Shares in Via Varejo SA fell on Tuesday after a key minority shareholder denied speculation about a potential exit from Brazil’s largest home appliance retailer.
Units, a blend of Via Varejo’s common and preferred shares, shed as much as 3.3 percent after the Klein family denied earlier in the day reports that it planned to sell a 27.3 percent stake in the retailer.
In a statement to Reuters, the Kleins said they have received no proposal for the stake. The statement followed a report by O Globo newspaper columnist Lauro Jardim, who said the Kleins had been approached by South Africa-based household and apparel retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV over the stake.
Steinhoff could pay the Kleins as much as 1.5 billion reais ($471 million) for their interest in Via Varejo, which is majority owned by France’s Casino Guichard Perrachon & Cie, Jardim’s column in O Globo said.
Still, analysts questioned why Steinhoff would approach the Kleins before Casino, which owns 43.3 percent of Via Varejo. Any transaction with the Kleins would not automatically trigger a Steinhoff buyout of other minority shareholders.
“Steinhoff is an operator, which would make it more willing to control and manage the asset, in our view,” said Tobias Stingelin, an analyst with Credit Suisse Securities in São Paulo.
The stock closed down 2.2 percent at 8.46 reais on Tuesday. Units had jumped up to 9.5 percent shortly after markets opened on the O Globo report, extending two days of sharp gains accompanied by heavier-than-average trading volumes on the stock.
Via Varejo is up 153 percent this year.
The report comes as Via Varejo finalizes the integration of CNova NV’s Brazilian business, while fanning speculation that the Kleins, who founded one of the appliance retailers that formed the company, want to exit to invest in other sectors including civil aviation and real estate.
The Kleins have three seats in Via Varejo’s nine-member board and their special shareholders rights expired earlier this year.
Via Varejo is the by-product of the Casino-engineered merger of appliance retailers Casas Bahia SA, which the elder member of the Kleins founded in the late 1950s, and Globex Utilidades SA. The French retailer bought both companies in 2009 through local unit GPA SA.
GPA gained 2.5 percent to 56.65 reais, extending gains this year to 35 percent.
$1 = 3.1820 reais Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Bruno Federowski; Additional reporting by Tatianaautzer in São Paulo; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli