Simon cashes out of venture that owns 46 Italian centers

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Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. shopping mall owner, sold its stake in a venture that operates 46 Italian shopping centers for an undisclosed sum to its partner, French supermarket chain Auchan’s property unit.

Auchan’s Immochan acquired Simon Property’s 49 percent stake in Gallerie Commerciali Italia SpA, or GCI, to own the business outright, according to a statement Wednesday by the property company based near Lille, France.

“Immochan’s increased holding in GCI allows the Auchan Group to pursue its development in Italy,” the company said in the statement.

Indianapolis-based Simon has scaled back its presence in Europe. The company sold seven malls in France and Poland that were held in a venture with Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec to Unibail-Rodamco SE for $913 million) in 2010.

Auchan operates 51 large supermarkets, or hypermarkets, in Italy and 1,700 supermarkets. GCI’s centers lease 5.38 million square feet of property divided between 2,100 shops.

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