SAO PAULO, May 13 (Reuters) - Brazilian tycoon Abilio Diniz has bought as much as 3 percent of Carrefour SA in recent months, local media reported on Tuesday, making him the fourth-largest investor in France's biggest retailer.
O Estado de S. Paulo, citing sources with knowledge of the deal, said Diniz had spent about $1 billion to purchase the stake in several portions. According to Valor Econômico, three banks might have made those purchases at Diniz's behest.
Diniz stepped down last year as chairman of GPA SA , Carrefour's archrival in Brazil. Reuters reported in February that Diniz and a group of investors were considering buying a stake in Carrefour's Brazilian unit.
Sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters at the time that Carrefour would prefer to sell a stake than list the company in Brazil.
The stake purchases might indicate that Diniz wants to make more noise as a shareholder of the Paris-based company than a relevant partner of the Brazilian business, analysts told Reuters. According to the Reuters report, Diniz might be looking to gain management rights from Carrefour to help overhaul the Brazilian unit.
Carrefour shares were down 0.5 percent to 26.67 euros in Paris on Tuesday.
Estado also reported that Diniz was considering the sale of about 60 stores leased to GPA, which is also Carrefour's arch-rival in France.
Press representatives for Diniz declined to comment on the reports. Carrefour did not have an immediate comment.
Diniz fell out with Casino Guichard Perrachon & Cie , which currently controls GPA, after he initiated merger talks with Carrefour in 2011. Carrefour would have gotten a stake in GPA just as Casino, which had not approved of such a deal, was preparing to take control of the Brazilian retailer under a previous shareholder agreement with Diniz.
Casino did not insist on a non-compete clause with Diniz, who never hid his intention to return to the retail industry.
(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Asher Levine; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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