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Groupe Casino set to sell Big C Thailand

French supermarket operator Groupe Casino has said it will now likely sell its Thailand operation.

While in the process of searching for a buyer for its Big C chain in Vietnam,  Groupe Casino says it has received an approach to purchase its more profitable operation in Thailand.

While hugely successful and with a strong brand identity in Thailand, Big C must have been losing ground in recent monthsas its archrival Tesco last week announced its highest ever market share in Thailand.

In a statement, Groupe Casino says it has received expressions of interest for its publicly listed subsidiary Big C in Thailand, and is proceeding with a sale “in the best interests of the company and its shareholders” along with the sale of the Big C Vietnam business. It is not clear if both businesses will be bought by the same buyer, but it appears more than likely.

Big C has a market value of 163.25 billion baht (US$4.49 billion) in Thailand, and total rental space of 800,000 sqm. Groupe Casino holds 58.6 per cent of the total paid-up capital. Its annual sales in Asia – Thailand and Vietnam – were up 13. 1 per cent from 2014 at 3.97 billion euro ($4.33), but organic growth was down 0.8 per cent.

In Thailand, sales were more moderately down in the fourth quarter last year, and in a context of price cuts on food, volumes were up and same-store sales were positive in December. Expansion remained dynamic with 37 store openings in the fourth quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, there had been talk the Central Group had plans to take over Groupe Casino’s Big C stores in Vietnam (Big C had initially been founded by the group), but a Vietnamese representative of the Thai conglomerate says nothing has happened from its side. “They [Big C] are approaching retailers in the market to make the selling offer. That is a normal process.”

A source close to Central Group’s activities in Vietnam says a deal between the Thai retailer and electronics appliance chain Pico had failed, prompting speculation in June that a Central Group takeover was on the cards. Earlier last year it acquired 49 per cent of Nguyen Kim, a major electronics retailer in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Berli Jucker is also eyeing Big C Vietnam after the billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi-backed, listed company dropped its bid for Metro Cash & Carry in Vietnam. On January 7, the German group announced it had sold the Vietnam-based wholesale unit to TCC Holding, another business of Sirivadhanabhakdi, for 655 million euro.


Casino’s store networks in Thailand and Vietnam

Q3/2015 Q4/2015
Thailand 697 734
Big C hypermarkets 124 125
Big C supermarkets 44 55
Mini-Big C superettes 368 391
Pure 161 163
Vietnam 41 42
Big C hypermarkets 31 32
C Express superettes 10 10

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