British grocer Tesco is considering exiting Asia with a shock sale of its operations in Thailand and Malaysia.
Tesco has confirmed that following inbound interest, it has “commenced a review of the strategic options for its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, including an evaluation of a possible sale of these businesses”.
“The evaluation of strategic options is at an early stage, no decisions concerning the future of Tesco Thailand or Malaysia have been taken, and there can be no assurance that any transaction will be concluded,” the company said.
“A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate,” it added.
Dow Jones, citing people familiar with the plan, reported that the sale could fetch up to US$9 billion.
Tesco operates 74 stores in Malaysia and 1967 in Thailand under Tesco Lotus brand. The combined stores generated £286 million (US$375.8 million) operating profit in the year to February.
Tesco previously sold businesses in South Korea and Singapore during a period of restructuring following an accounting scandal. But the company said it believed in the long-term potential of the remaining operations in Thailand and Malaysia.
Tesco did not identify where the approach had come from, but it is likely to be from a private equity company, or possibly Japanese retailer Aeon seeking to boost its expansion in the region. Aeon already has stores in both markets.