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Wal-Mart says Walton family to sell shares to keep lid on stake

The Wal-Mart company logo is seen outside a Wal-Mart Stores Inc company distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said the Walton family was putting 6 percent of the retailer's outstanding shares in a newly formed trust for possible sale to offset expected increases in its stake due to stock buybacks and to help fund charitable contributions.

The amount of stock set to go into the trust is worth $15.6 billion at the current price.

The Walton family, which founded the company more than five decades ago, owned 50.86 percent of Wal-Mart's stock as of Dec. 31 through an entity called Walton Enterprises, L.L.C., according to Thomson Reuters data.

In a statement, the company said it had been informed by the family that it planned to sell shares "from time to time" to ensure its stake does not increase as a result of the company's stock repurchase program, and to finance investments in charity.

"The family believes that this is consistent with an appropriate balance of family and non-family ownership that supports the goals of all Walmart shareholders and long term business success," the company said in the statement.

The family anticipates the share sales will take place over a period of years, the company said.

In June 2013, Wal-Mart announced a program under which it would repurchase $15 billion worth of its own shares. As of Jan. 31, authorization for the repurchase of 10.3 billion worth of stock remained under the program, according to a company filing.

Prior to the announcement, Wal-Mart shares closed down 0.2 percent at $80.65.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne. Editing by Andre Grenon and David Gregorio)