(Adds analyst and Falabella comments)
SAO PAULO Nov 24 Shares in Brazil appliance retailer Via Varejo SA soared on Thursday by the most since March on reports that three suitors have expressed interest in a controlling stake in the company.
SACI Falabella SA, Steinhoff International Holdings Ltd and Lojas Americanas SA are among a group of retailers interested in Via Varejo, newspaper Valor Econômico reported.
Citing people with knowledge of the situation, Valor said GPA SA, Via Varejo's controlling shareholder, had received a list of potential interested parties from Banco Santander Brasil SA, its adviser in the deal.
Late on Wednesday, GPA's board authorized management to start proceedings to sell the 43.3-percent controlling stake it has in Via Varejo.
Credit Suisse Securities said the news should not come as a surprise, given that GPA had announced it was considering alternatives for its Via Varejo stake in early November.
"However, we believe that the release of this additional material fact indicates that between Nov. 3 and today the company might have received some preliminary indications of interest," analysts led by Tobias Stingelin wrote in a client note.
Via Varejo units, a blend of common and preferred shares, rose as much as 13.2 percent to 9.35 reais, extending gains to 182 percent so far this year.
Preferred shares in GPA rose 3 percent, their third straight daily gain.
Santiago-based Falabella said it does not comment on rumors or speculation.
"The company is focused on continuing to develop its presence in Brazil by opening Sodimac stores and improving Dicico as a specialist chain," a press representative said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Executives and representatives for Johannesburg-based Steinhoff did not immediately comment. Rio de Janeiro-based Lojas Americanas and Via Varejo declined to comment.
GPA, Brazil's largest diversified retailer, wants to exit Via Varejo to focus on food retailing. The company, which owns supermarkets under the Pão de Açúcar brand, posted a larger-than-expected third-quarter loss, due in part to a sharp drop in non-food sales at the group.
Brazil's appliance retailing segment has struggled over the past two years with the impact of a recession not seen in eight decades and a credit crunch, which worsened as unemployment and interest rates climbed.
France's Casino Guichard Perrichon SA, which in turn controls GPA, hired Santander Brasil to advise on the Via Varejo deal. The Klein family, holder of a 27.3 percent stake, has hired the investment banking unit of Banco Bradesco SA as adviser. (Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Additional reporting by Paula Laier; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Lisa Shumaker)
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