By P.R. Venkat 

U.K. retailer Tesco PLC, cutting debt and narrowing its focus, agreed to sell its Asia assets to Thailand's richest family in a deal that values the business at $10.58 billion.

Tesco, among the world's largest grocers by sales, reached an agreement to sell its Thailand and Malaysia assets to CP Group entities. That will allow it to focus more on generating cash and shareholder returns from its operations in the U.K. and Ireland and in Central Europe, Tesco said Monday.

Since 2011, Tesco has exited markets including Japan, the U.S. and South Korea, and ceded some control of its operations in China. In the U.K. is locked in a price battle with discount grocers and online competitors such as Amazon.com Inc. and Ocado Group PLC.

The shift home is one also being made by some of its counterparts, such as French players Carrefour SA and Casino Guichard-Perrachon, which have exited operations in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in recent years.

Tesco had said in December that it started reviewing options for its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, including possible sales. Tesco Lotus operates around 2,000 stores in Thailand and 74 in Malaysia.

Tesco said its net cash proceeds from the sale, which is subject to regulatory approvals in Thailand and Malaysia, will come to $10.3 billion before tax and other transaction costs. It said it will return GBP5 billion ($6.52 billion) to shareholders through a special dividend with associated share consolidation.

For CP Group, which sold the Thailand assets to Tesco during the 1998 Asian financial crisis for $365 million, the deal is one of its biggest acquisitions. Notable past purchases include the $9.4 billion deal for a stake in Chinese insurer Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. in 2013.

Owned by the Chearavanont family-- Thailand's richest, with a net worth of $29.5 billion--CP Group has business interests spanning from property development and telecommunications to consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.

Tesco said that it expects to receive regulatory approval for the sale during the third quarter of this year. If successful, it will be the biggest M&A transaction in Thailand since 1995, according to Dealogic data.

Write to P.R. Venkat at venkat.pr@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 09, 2020 05:33 ET (09:33 GMT)

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