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PARIS (Reuters) -Casino on Tuesday launched a sale of shares in Brazilian supermarket chain Assai as the French supermarket operator presses on with cutting its debt.

Casino said it would be selling 12.9% of Assai’s share capital, representing 174 million shares. The French company said the sale formed part of its previously announced plans to sell assets.

Based on Assai’s closing share price of 16.69 Brazilian reais on March 13, the sale of the stake would be worth around 2.9 billion reais ($553 million).

Casino said the sale amount could be increased by up to 80 million common shares, representing an extra 5.9% of Assai’s share capital.

Casino owns a 30.5% stake in Assai, according to the Brazilian firm’s website.

It also controls Brazilian company Grupo Pao de Acucar and said this month that it would continue selling assets in Latin America this year.

Casino is also in exclusive talks to combine its French retail business with smaller food retailer Teract.

($1 = 5.2467 reais)

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Tom Hogue and Jason Neely)