Thai tycoons bid for Tesco’s US$7b Asia business

PETALING JAYA (Dec 28): Thai tycoons are looking to buy the Thailand and Malaysian operations of Britain's biggest retailer Tesco, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

The report quoting unnamed insiders said Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group and the Chirathivat family's Central Group are preparing bids for the Southeast Asian business that could be worth more than US$7 billion.

Another Thai billionaire, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of TCC Group, also expressed interest, according to the sources of the report.

Tesco is expected to call for initial bids next month but potential bidders might not make any offers as deliberations continue, the report cautioned.

Earlier this month, Tesco said it is reviewing its highly profitable businesses in Thailand and Malaysia after being approached by an unnamed buyer.

It has declined to comment on the news of the alleged bidders. Representatives of the three alleged bidders also declined to comment.

Selling off its Southeast Asian operations will give Tesco a lot of cash to focus on its core UK business.

According to Bloomberg, Tesco has more than 2,000 hypermarkets and convenience stores in Thailand under the “Tesco Lotus” brand. The chain was founded by CP Group in 1994 and later taken over by the British firm, according to its company website. In Malaysia, Tesco has over 70 shops, according to its annual report. Malaysian conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd owns a 30% stake in Tesco Malaysia.

Berli Jucker Pcl, controlled by TCC, bought a controlling stake in Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA’s Thailand supermarket chain Big C Supercenter Pcl for €3.1 billion (US$3.45 billion) in 2016. Big C is the country’s second-largest supermarket chain behind Tesco Lotus.

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