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Mon 30 Apr 2007 02:47 PM

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Sainsbury: not hot property for Qatar

UK group denies pressure to sell off real estate following the 17% Qatari stake purchase.

Justin King, the chief executive of Britain's J. Sainsbury Plc, said on Monday he did not feel under pressure to hive off the supermarket group's property assets.

"I personally don't feel under any pressure at all," he told BBC Radio when asked whether he felt under pressure to split the firm into an operating company and a property company.

"We have got a great business that's been trading very strongly for about nine quarters in a row. And it's quite clear that the reason why most people are interested in Sainsbury's and why the value of our company is being driven up, is because the underlying performance of our company is improving and long may that continue."

Property magnate Robert Tchenguiz, who has built up a 5% stake in Sainsbury, has said the supermarket group should release more value to investors from its real estate assets, which some analysts estimate to be worth around 8 billion pounds ($16 billion).

A Qatari investment fund bought a 17% stake in the group last week, adding to speculation that shareholders may step up the pressure on the board to sell properties.

"We never comment on specific shareholders in our company but they are in the public domain back in January/February as saying that they were great admirers of Sainsbury's, so one would imagine they've invested in the company because they are admirers of our company," King said when asked about the Qatari investment.

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