Central Group wins Big C Vietnam auction

Thai retail conglomerate Central Group has won the bidding battle for Groupe Casino’s Big C Vietnam business.

Groupe Casino has confirmed Central paid €1 billion (US$1.14 billion), which will be used to pay down debt.

That price is as much as $300 million more than the French retailer reportedly expected to get for the business whose value was earlier publicised at around US$800 million.

One of the rival bidders – Lotte Group of Korea – is believed to have withdrawn from the process when it became clear the price would exceed $1 billion.

Casino says it will net €920 million after sale costs.

Central Group is already building a substantial collection of assets in Vietnam, rolling out Robins department stores in main centres and acquiring a controlling interest in the country’s largest electronics retail chain Nguyen Kim. Outside Vietnam it owns department stores in Italy, Germany and Indonesia, amongst other markets. Worldwide it boasts 4400 stores under various brands.

In an odd twist, Central was a minority shareholder in the Big C Thailand operation which Groupe Casino sold a majority 58.6 per cent stake to rival Thai retailer Berli Jucker last month. Berli Jucker is controlled by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, who last year paid €3.1 billion for German owned Metro Group’s hypermarket business in Vietnam. Berli Jucker is believed to have bid for Big C Vietnam but lost out to Central.

The Big C Vietnam operation comprises 43 stores and 30 shopping malls. It turned over  €586 million in 2015.



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