Tesco UK ponders sale of Malaysia, Thai supermarkets

Tesco Malaysia’s chain of hypermarkets may be sold by its UK owner. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A possible sale of Tesco supermarkets in Thailand and Malaysia is being considered by the UK owners of the chain, Tesco plc, a multinational groceries and general merchandise retailer.

It said in a statement today that it had started a review of its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, including looking at a possible sale, following “inbound interest”, Reuters reported.

The company did not say where the “inbound interest” came from.

Malaysian conglomerate Sime Darby has a 30% stake in Tesco Malaysia, which operates popular hypermarkets in major cities.

In August last year, Sime Darby group chief executive Jeffri Salim Davidson said the management was “waiting for the right time” to divest its holding in the hypermarket chain, in order to concentrate on its core business in industry, motor and healthcare.

Tesco UK, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, is five years into a recovery plan launched after an accounting scandal capped a dramatic downturn in trading.

The Tesco statement said that the company had begun 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 was at an early stage and “there can be no assurance that any transaction will be concluded. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate,” Tesco added.

The company has said in June that it was well placed to grow in Asia, particularly in Thailand, where it sees an opportunity for 750 new convenience stores over the “medium term”.

Tesco Malaysia also operates nine convenience stores in Malaysia called Tesco Express. In August the company was reported to be seeking a new partner after a veterans’ organisation, Perbadanan Perwira Niaga Malaysia, pulled out of the proposed joint venture.

Government regulations require foreign hypermarket chains to have a local partner in the convenience store market. Tesco has until March 31 to find a new partner.