Mubadala, Tencent mull bids for RM12b Watson stake


HONG KONG • Mubadala Development Co, the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, and Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd are weighing bids for part of Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd’s stake in global retailer AS Watson Group, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Singapore state investment company is considering selling around a 10% stake in AS Watson for about US$3 billion (RM12.19 billion), according to the people. That’s just under half of its 25% holding.

Tencent may team up with some investment funds for an offer for the stake in AS Watson, which is a unit of Hong Kong tycoon Victor Li’s CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd, the people said. The holding has also drawn interest from Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, according to the people.

Potential buyers are being invited to management presentations this month, one of the people said.

Shares of CK Hutchison rose 2.5% at the close yesterday in Hong Kong, the biggest gain in more than two months, after earlier rising as much as 3.5%. The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 0.5%.

Temasek is working with an advisor to explore options for its 25% holding in AS Watson after receiving some preliminary interest, Bloomberg News reported in January.

No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the suitors will proceed with firm offers, the people said. Differences in valuation expectations could make reaching a deal difficult, and Temasek may still decide to keep the stake, according to the people.

Representatives for Mubadala, Tencent and Alibaba declined to comment. Temasek said in an emailed statement that it doesn’t comment on speculation. — Bloomberg