March 4, 2020 / 11:57 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Czech investor Kretinsky raises stake in French retailer Casino

* Kretinsky’s VESA Equity owns 6.88% of Casino’s capital

* Kretinsky is also helping Rallye refinance derivatives deals

* Kretinsky disclosed initial Casino’s investment in September (Adds details, context, share price)

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky has tightened his grip on French retailer Casino , raising his stake to 6.88% of the capital and 5.17% of the voting rights, a regulatory announcement showed.

Casino CEO and controlling shareholder Jean-Charles Naouri are hunting for ways to ease the company’s debts - and those of parent company Rallye - in part through asset sales.

By 1145 GMT, Casino shares gained 1.5%, in line with the overall market, while Rallye shares rose 2.5%.

VESA Equity Investment, controlled by Kretinsky and his junior partner Patrik Tkac, bought the additional Casino shares on Feb. 27 on the market, stock market regulator AMF said in a statement.

Kretinsky first disclosed an investment in Casino in September 2019, saying VESA had built a stake of 4.6%, becoming Casino’s second-largest shareholder after Naouri.

Kretinky and Naouri at the time said the investment was friendly, with Naouri saying he would propose to the Casino board of directors the appointment of a representative of VESA.

In January, VESA further lifted its stake in Casino to 5.6%.

Earlier this week, Kretinsky agreed to provide up to 233 million euros ($256 million) through his EP Investment vehicle to refund derivatives deals Casino’s parent Rallye had sealed with financial institutions.

This was an important move because these derivatives were the only part of Rallye’s debt that were not covered by a safeguard plan approved by the Paris Commercial Court on Feb. 28.

That plan gives Rallye about 10 years to pay back 2.9 billion euros of debt. ($1 = 0.8973 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by GV De Clercq and Barbara Lewis)

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