Tesco to ask Thai tycoons for next-round bids for Asia unit

by BERNAMA/ pic by BLOOMBERG

BANGKOK • Britain’s largest supermarket chain Tesco plc is inviting Thai tycoons to the second round of bidding for its operations in Thailand and Malaysia that could fetch more than US$7 billion (RM28.84 billion), according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) and Central Group, controlled by the Chirathivat family, were picked to proceed with deadline for the bids due in the next few weeks, said the people.

Tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s TCC Group has also been chosen, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

While the companies are seeking financing for their potential offers, there’s no certainty that they will proceed, the people said. Representatives for Central Group, CP, TCC and Tesco declined to comment.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has had a limited effect on deal-making in South-East Asia so far. Central Group, a conglomerate with businesses spanning from department stores to hospitality, raised about US$2.5 billion through the spinoff of its retail arm in what would be the country’s largest IPO. Lion Air and restaurant-chain operator PT Champ Resto Indonesia are in the process of gauging investor demand for their IPOs.

Tesco said in December that it was 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.