Tesco executives and advisors will this week start evaluating offers for its Thai and Malaysian businesses following Friday’s deadline for binding offers.
However, with the asset valued somewhere in the region of US$9 billion, there is no certainty any of the bids will be accepted. A decision is expected this month.
Tesco has yet to confirm how many bids were received, but analysts expect a three-way battle between some of Thailand’s largest companies: CP Group, controlled by Dhanin Chearavanont, Central Group, controlled by the Chirathivat family, and TCC Group, controlled by property and beer magnate Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi. Another potential bidder is petroleum group PTT which is expanding its Cafe Amazon network regionally and has an interest in diversifying from its core petrol-retailing business.
Tesco operates about 2000 supermarkets and convenience stores in Thailand and a further 74 in a Malaysian joint venture with Sime Darby Group.
For Central Group, which last month raised US$2.5 billion in an IPO of its retail business, the Tesco operation would have substantial synergies with its supermarkets and convenience-store business.
CP Group, meanwhile, has an interest in effectively buying back the Thailand operations, which evolved from the supermarket business it sold to Tesco in 1997 to raise cash during the Asian Financial Crisis. CP owns the Sam Makro grocery warehouse business with 130 stores along with the Thai 7-Eleven franchise which now numbers more than 11,000 stores.
In the half year to August 24, the Tesco businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, achieved sales of $3.3 billion and an operating profit of $219 million.
Exiting the Southeast Asian business may come with complications. Thailand’s government has already flagged its interest in a sale to existing local entities, commenting that the deal must not violate anti-monopoly laws.