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Controlling shareholder in Via Varejo raises $55 mln in block trade

(Corrects total stake GPA owns in Via Varejo to 43.2 percent from 31.7 percent in 3rd paragraph)

SAO PAULO, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Food retailer GPA SA sold 217 million reais ($55 million) in Via Varejo shares on Thursday, equivalent to 3.86 percent of the electronics retailer's capital.

According to traders, the price of Via Varejo shares in the auction earlier on Thursday was 4.35 reais per share, below the initial 4.42 reais announced by the stock exchange.

The Thursday sale is the first step in GPA strategy to divest from its 43.2 percent stake in Via Varejo. The company has tried to find a strategic buyer for more than two years. ($1 = 3.9308 reais) (Reporting by Paula Laier and Tatiana Bautzer Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)