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Jean Coutu shrinks stake in Rite Aid to 11.7 pct

The Associated Press

The Jean Coutu Group said Tuesday that it has sold 72.5 million shares in Rite Aid Corp., further shrinking its stake in the drugstore chain.

The Canadian pharmacy company is Rite Aid's largest shareholder. It sold the shares for an average price of $2.20 each, raising net proceeds of $158.5 million. It now holds an 11.7 percent of the company's outstanding shares.

Jean Coutu spokeswoman Hélène Bisson said that the company is trying to reduce its position in Rite Aid but remains supportive of the Camp Hill, Pa.-based chain. Jean Coutu sold 56 million shares in Rite Aid in April 2012, lowering its stake to nearly 20 percent at the time.

Jean Coutu said it will record a gain of $49.7 million during its fiscal first quarter.

The company operates a network of 405 franchised stores located in the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario under the banners of PJC Jean Coutu, PJC Clinique, PJC Sante and PJC Sante Beaute. It also owns Pro Doc Lt., a Quebec-based maker of generic drugs.

Rite Aid shares added 2 cents to close the day at $2.25 Tuesday, in line with broader market trends. The stock is up 65 percent in the year to date.