Thai corporate tycoons vie for Tesco’s $7bn Asia business

The UK's largest supermarket chain is carrying out a strategic review of its Asian businesses after receiving interest

Thailand's traditional Tuk Tuk wait for customers outside a Tesco-Lotus supermarket in Bangkok on December 11, 2019 Supermarket chain Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, said that it was looking to sell its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia. / AFP / Mladen ANTONOV
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The Thailand and Malaysian operations of Britain’s largest supermarket chain Tesco are on the shopping lists of Thai tycoons.

Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group and Central Group, controlled by Chirathivat family, are among companies that are weighing bids for the Southeast Asian business that could fetch more than $7 billion (Dh25.7bn), according to people with knowledge of the matter.

CP Group and Central Group are holding discussions with financial advisers preparing for separate bids, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

TCC Group, controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, has also expressed interest, the people said.

Tesco said in December that it is carrying out a strategic review of its Thai and Malaysian businesses after receiving interest. A sale of the Asian operations would allow the supermarket chain to get an infusion of cash to continue a restructuring of its core UK business that has cut thousands of jobs.

Tesco is expected to call for initial bids for the businesses as soon as next month, the people said. Companies might decide against making any offer as deliberations continue, the people added.

A representative for Tesco said the company has no fresh comment to make.

A spokesman at CP Group said the company has no information to share at the moment, while a representative for Central Group declined to comment. TCC Group isn’t immediately available for comment.

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 the company website.

In Malaysia, Tesco has over 70 shops, according to its annual report. Malaysian conglomerate Sime Darby owns a 30 per cent stake in Tesco Malaysia.