Tesco Asia carve up likely
A carve-up of Tesco Asia operations seems increasingly likely with credible reports in three different nations now of serious expressions of interest.
While markets await firm news of progress of HSBC’s quest to find a buyer for the Tesco Korea business, the latest news is that Japan’s Aeon has expressed interest in buying Tesco Malaysia, reportedly valued in the region of £900 million.
That follows an approach from Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont late last year who prepared a speculative bid by his company Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) to buy back the troubled Tesco Plc’s Thai business, which he sold during the Asian financial crisis. That bid was initially rejected but if Tesco is selling its Korean and Malaysian operations it is likely to let Thailand go as well if it can gain a fair price.
If all three sales were to proceed, it would almost certainly see the Tesco Asia operations rebranded under new owners – in Thailand, most likely under the Lotus brand, in Malaysia stores would be merged into Aeon’s existing network and in Korea – that would entirely depend on the successful bidder.
Reuters has reported reliable sources confirming Aeon’s interest in Tesco Malaysia. Aeon is cashed up, has a heavy focus on expanding across Southeast Asia and a merger of its network with Tesco’s would give it 29 stores, making it a formidable competitor to local hypermarket operator Giant, which has a lower market positioning to Aeon’s more premium offer.
The Japanese retail and property giant entered Malaysia by acquiring the Carrefour operation in 2012 for €250 million.
Meanwhile, KKR has reportedly rejoined the race to buy Tesco Korea’s Homeplus network which is estimated to be worth US$6 billion, after sweetening its preliminary offer. All the prospective shortlisted buyers reported by the UK and Korean financial press are private equity companies, including Affinity Equity Partners, Goldman Sachs, Carlyle Group and MBK Partners.
However in a market as complex as Korea, it is highly likely any of those bidders would want to partner with a local retail operator for the business connections and local market knowledge.