September 25, 2019 / 9:28 PM / 9 months ago

Brazil's Via Varejo mulls selling domain back to GPA: chairman

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Three months after becoming the largest shareholder and chairman of Brazilian electronics and appliance retailer Via Varejo SA, retail veteran Michael Klein and his family are now considering the sale of the domain to former controller GPA SA.

Besides operating over 1,000 stores under the brands Casas Bahia and Pontofrio and their respective online platforms, Via Varejo’s sells only electronics on its website and uses the Extra hypermarkets brand owned by GPA.

“We are still valuing the domain to begin talks with GPA or other groups,” Via Varejo’s chairman, Klein, told journalists on Wednesday, adding the retailer currently handles independently all logistics, pricing and other commercial strategies for Extra online sales.

GPA, controlled by France’s Casino Guichard Perrachon SA, which has been restructuring its operations in Latin America, declined to comment.

The food retailer sold its full stake in Via Varejo on June 14 to Klein and financial investors, mainly mutual funds advised by XP Investments, over two years after announcing its intention to divest the business.

Since then, Via Varejo common shares have gained 50%. On Wednesday afternoon, shares were up 1.7% at 7.60 reais.

Klein, whose father founded appliance retail chain Casas Bahias in the 1950s, one of the companies that formed Via Varejo, said the retailer’s strategy is to rekindle the proprietary credit lines that were a fixture of the company in early years.

“This was not a priority when GPA was controlling shareholder”, Klein said, adding that Via Varejo had reduced its proprietary credit operations and relied more on credit card companies financing their clients.

“We are planning to reactivate our own credit operations using the digital framework provided by BanQi,” he said, referring to a digital bank targeting low-income and unbanked clients that Via Varejo launched in June through a partnership with Boston-based startup Airfox.

The executive added Via Varejo’s top executives are in China this week, meeting with Tencent Holdings Ltd and others to discuss potential payment solutions that could be brought to Brazil.

After revising the profitability of its stores for potential closures of loss-making ones, Via Varejo may consider acquisitions, but only in areas where it does not have a large presence, such as the northern region.

Reporting by Gabriela Mello and Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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