June 15, 2019 / 12:00 AM / 5 months ago

Control of Brazil retailer Via Varejo shifts to Klein family from GPA

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian retail veteran Michael Klein and his family on Friday gained control of appliance retailer Via Varejo SA from retailer GPA SA in an auction.

Klein bought a smaller than anticipated additional stake in the company, but other investors pitched in and GPA ended by selling its entire stake at a higher than expected price.

In a statement, Klein said he had bought a 1.6% stake in Via Varejo in an auction on the Sao Paulo stock exchange on Friday.

Combined with its previous stake of 25.4%, the Klein family will own 27%, making it the retailer’s largest shareholder.

GPA, which has wanted to exit the investment, said it sold its full 36% for 4.90 reais per share, raising a total of 2.3 billion reais ($590 million).

This was above the 4.75 reais per share that had been anticipated, based on a June 12 filing.

Klein, who market watchers had expected to spend up to 500 million reais in the auction, in the end spent only 101 million reais ($26 million).

The rest of GPA’s stake was acquired by financial investors, mainly mutual funds, advised by XP Investments.

“It’s a big challenge ahead, but we will push for better outcomes as our family has always done,” Klein said in a statement.

The family has been a significant shareholder in Via Varejo since 2009, when it sold appliance retailer Casas Bahia to GPA. Klein’s father, Samuel Klein, founded Casas Bahia in the 1950s.

The sale ends a two-year struggle by GPA, controlled by France’s Casino Guichard Perrachon SA, to sell the appliance retailer.

Shares rose to 4.97 reais at closing on the Sao Paulo stock exchange, higher than the auction price but down 1.4% from Thursday’s closing.

Two sources with knowledge of the matter said Klein intends to appoint Roberto Fulcherberger as Via Varejo’s chief executive officer and Marcel Cecci as chief financial officer. Both sources asked for anonymity because the matter was private.

Additional reporting by Aluisio Alves, Dominique Vidalon in Paris; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman

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