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Casino has agreed to sell its stake in a Thai food retailer for €3.1bn (£2.4bn) in a deal which will help the French supermarket group significantly slash its debts.

Big C Supercenter operates a network of more than 700 stores, including 125 hypermarkets, in Thailand and had revenues of €3.4bn in 2015.

Casino, which has faced criticism from short sellers in the US over its leveraged position, has signed a contract to sell its 59% stake in Big C to the TCC Group, a Thai conglomerate with interests in retail, commercial and industrial business, food and beverage, finance and insurance, property and real estate, agricultural and agro industrial sectors.

The disposal will allow Casino to reduce its debt by €3.3bn. The announcement fulfils almost all the French group’s commitment to sell €4bn in assets this year as it moves to pay off €6bn of net debt.

The transaction is expected to be completed by 31 March.

Analysts at Jefferies said: “Today’s news is a major step in the right direction, and especially important as it comes at a time when cashflow visibility remains poor at Casino.”

Morning update

The markets are extremely quiet this morning, with no newsflow coming out of the London Stock Exchange.

The FTSE 100 has opened 0.6% down to 5,817.3 points, with Ocado (OCDO) was of the worst affected grocery stocks. The online grocer is trading a hefty 2.5% down to 251.1p. WH Smith (SMWH) is also 2.5% behind at 1,730p and Real Good Food (RGD), which had a torrid time last week after a profits warning, is down 1.9% to 41.2p. Among the morning’s risers is Poundland (PLND), which is currently soaring 4.7% higher than Friday’s close at 152p.

It’s a mixed start for the supermarkets with Tesco (TSCO) slightly up (0.2%) to 174.8p, Sainsbury’s down 1.1% to 248.2p and Morrisons (MRW) up 0.1% to 175.2p.

This week in the City

There isn’t a whole lot in the diary this week until Thursday. Wednesday brings a quarter one earnings update from the US and Whole Foods Market, with Green King releasing a Q3 trading statement over here. And there is a flurry of trading updates on Thursday from Coca-Cola Enterprises, Tate & Lyle, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Imperial Tobacco and Metro.

Outside the markets, there is the much-watched BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Index for January out tomorrow, along with the latest market share data from Kantar Worldpanel and Nielsen.