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Metro in Talks With Signa, Berggruen on Kaufhof Unit Sale

Metro AG said it’s discussing the sale of its Kaufhof department-store chain with both Signa Holding GmbH, an Austrian real-estate company backed by Greek billionaire George Economou, and the owner of rival Karstadt.

Metro is holding preliminary talks with both potential buyers and there’s no agreement, said a spokesman for Dusseldorf-based Metro, who declined to be identified.

Kaufhof could be sold to Signa, which was founded and is managed by investor Rene Benko, in a few weeks, Handelsblatt reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Separately, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported on its website that Karstadt owner Nicolas Berggruen wants to buy Kaufhof and has already made an offer.

“There are talks taking place,” Dietmar Hofreiter, a Vienna-based spokesman for Signa, said by telephone today. He declined to comment on the nature of the discussions.

Metro was up 1.7 percent at 33.64 euros at 1:38 p.m. in Frankfurt trading, after rising as high as 34.36 euros. The stock has fallen 38 percent this year, the fourth-biggest drop in the benchmark DAX Index.

Metro has been seeking a buyer of Kaufhof since 2008 and said in August it may sell the chain or form an alliance for the unit. Chief Executive Officer Eckhard Cordes said last year that he values Kaufhof at 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) to 3 billion euros. Bidders will only gain access to the data room with bids of at least 2.4 billion euros, Handelsblatt reported yesterday.

Cordes, 60, said last week he wouldn’t extend his contract beyond next year following media speculation that he had lost the backing of some supervisory board members. Newspapers including Financial Times Deutschland reported that Cordes faced opposition on the retailer’s board, prior to shareholders approving the extension of his contract last month.

Metro is due to report third-quarter earnings tomorrow.

-- With assistance from Zoe Schneeweiss and Boris Groendahl in Vienna. Editors: Paul Jarvis, Robert Valpuesta.

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