Metro Isn’t in Talks to Sell Kaufhof, Board Member Muller Says

Metro AG, Germany’s largest retailer, isn’t in talks to sell its department-store chain Kaufhof, management board member Frans Muller said.

The unit’ increase in market share in Germany is “extremely” positive, especially in textile markets, which aren’t “so easy,” Muller said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Metro said Jan. 16 that revenue at Kaufhof dropped 0.9 percent to 3.1 billion euros ($4.1 billion).

“Kaufhof is a good business for us,” Muller said in an interview. “We are not in talks with anyone.”

Metro Chief Executive Officer Olaf Koch halted negotiations to sell Kaufhof in January last year, saying market conditions weren’t suitable. Metro has sought to exit the unit since 2008. Nicolas Berggruen, a German billionaire who made an offer for the asset at the end of 2011, is also attending the economic forum. He was competing for the unit with Signa Holding GmbH, an Austrian real-estate company managed by Rene Benko.

Metro, based in Dusseldorf, has also sought to exit its Real hypermarket business and last year agreed to sell the grocery stores in eastern Europe to Groupe Auchan SA of France for 1.1 billion euros. It was Koch’s first big deal since taking the helm at the start of last year.

Fnac ‘Nonsense’

Muller said speculation Metro would merge its Media-Saturn business with PPR SA’s Fnac in France is “nonsense” after Swiss newspaper L’Agefi reported that Metro could return to the French electronics market by buying Fnac.

Koch has pledged to focus on the Cash & Carry wholesale unit and Media-Saturn electronics stores. The retailer reported little changed fourth-quarter revenue on Jan. 16 as increased sales at Media-Saturn in Germany offset weakness in western Europe. It also announced on that day that the electronics chain is leaving China.

“The year 2012 wasn’t great,” Muller said, adding that visibility for 2013 is “very low.”

Metro cut its 2012 profit forecast in October because of the weakening economic climate in southern Europe and parts of eastern Europe. It expects 2012 earnings before interest, tax and other items to be about 2 billion euros.

-- Editors: Thomas Mulier, Celeste Perri

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