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Metro shares decline as founding family sells stock

Shares of Metro AG, Europe's third-largest retailer, had their steepest drop in almost 20 months after one of the German company's founding families sold almost $1 billion worth of stock. The shares fell €1.71, or 3.8%, to 43.32% in Frankfurt, leading declines in Germany's benchmark 30-member DAX Index. The drop was the biggest since Jan. 12, 2005. The stock has almost tripled since 2002. The Schmidt-Ruthenbeck family sold a 5.39% stake in the company. JPMorgan Chase & Co. sold 17.5 million Metro shares at €43 apiece, according to a note to clients, valuing the sale at €752 million ($956 million). After the sale, the pooled stake of Dusseldorf, Germany-based Metro's three founders and largest shareholders, Otto Beisheim and the Haniel and Schmidt-Ruthenbeck families, will remain just above 50%. The Schmidt-Ruthenbeck stake will be about 13%, while the other two families still hold about 18.5% of shares each. The majority holders have no further plans to sell stock, said Jutta Stolle, a spokeswoman for the Haniel family. “The family sold the shares for familial reasons that we don't know,” Stolle said. “They're shifting their investment portfolio.” Metro's shares fell to a record low in October 2002, when rising unemployment and taxes were weighing on German retail sales. The net worth of brothers Michael and Rainer Schmidt-Ruthenbeck has since increased 65% to $3.3 billion, making them the world's 207th richest people, according to Forbes magazine's annually published list of the world's richest people. (Bloomberg)