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Staples To Sell Controlling Stake In European Unit To Cerberus

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Office supplies retailer Staples Inc (SPLS.O) said on Wednesday it would sell its controlling stake in its European business to an affiliate of private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP to focus on its North American operations.

Staples’ European unit consists of retail, contract and online businesses in 16 countries, generating aggregate annual sales of about 1.7 billion euros ($1.82 billion).

The company said it would retain a 15 percent stake in the European business.

The deal comes two months after smaller rival Office Depot Inc (ODP.O) said it would sell its European operations to investment company Aurelius Group.

Staples and Office Depot called off their planned merger in May due to antitrust concerns.

Following the scrapping of the deal, Staples named a new chief executive and announced a $300 million cost-cutting plan and exploration of strategic alternatives for the European business.

Staples’ sale of the European unit is expected to be completed during the first quarter of its fiscal year beginning February 2017, subject to certain conditions. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cerberus plans to bolster the European business by expanding its sales force and diversifying beyond office supplies, said Steven Mayer, the private equity fund’s senior managing director.

Staples said last month it would sell its UK retail business and operations to Hilco Capital, which invests in distressed companies.