Berli Jucker shareholders have voted in favour of the US$6.2 billion acquisition of a majority stake in Big C Thailand.
The vote – virtually unanimous – followed news the listed company had secured funding for the purchase from a syndicate of 15 banks and means the deal is now all but complete. Settlement is expected late this month.
But while the future of Big C Thailand now appears to be resolved, negotiations continue over the fate of Big C Vietnam, a smaller, less profitable business controlled by France-based Casino Group, which is shedding overseas assets to reduce its debt exposure.
Casino has a 58.6 per cent controlling interest in Big C Thailand, which Berli Jucker will now acquire.
In Vietnam, Thai tycoon Charoan Sirivadhanabhakdi, through another business, has recently purchased the Metro hypermarket business from Metro AG of Germany, to bolt on to Berli Jucker’s B’Smart convenience store network.
Charoan was thus a favourite to acquire the Big C Vietnam operations to build even greater critical mass, and lodged a bid prior to the first round deadline with his soon to be Big C Thailand partner, Central Group.
But sources within Asia’s business community are now confident Korea’s Lotte and Japan’s Aeon are frontrunners. Lotte runs the market leading Lotte Mart hypermarket business in Vietnam and would gain a significant foothold in the nation if it could secure Big C as well.
Aeon, which is building shopping centres in Vietnam main cities, reportedly submitted an offer that valued the business at more than US$800 million according to sources quoted in Vietnam media.
Lotte also submitted a bid prior to the first round deadline.
Casino has declined comment on the Vietnam sale other than to say it was “progressing well” when it reacted to ratings agency Standard & Poor’s decision to cut its credit rating to junk status on Monday.