Tesco hopes for value in Carrefour Asia auction

Tesco will face stiff competition to get its hands on Carrefour's south-east Asian assets...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
French retailer Carrefour is flogging a number of its stores in south-east Asia - and according to the FT, UK retail behemoth Tesco is one of more than ten local and international bidders interested in snapping them up. Tesco's international sales account for an ever-increasing chunk of its business, which is partly why former international boss Philip Clarke got the nod to succeed Sir Terry Leahy when he steps down next year. Can the outgoing boss pull off one more big deal before he disappears into semi-retirement?

According to the FT, there are more than 10 bidders for Carrefour's 61 stores in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore - including Dairy Farm from Singapore, Aeon from Japan, and French retailer Casino, as well as several private-equity firms - suggesting that the French firm has a good chance of achieving its healthy $800m-£1bn valuation.

So Tesco is unlikely to be able to bag the assets at a bargain price. And given that it's already the market leader in Thailand and Malaysia - with market shares of 13% and 10% respectively - you might argue it can live without them. But these stores would give a rival a serious competitive foothold, so it will be reluctant to give them up without a fight. Besides, as Leahy is fully aware, when it comes to success overseas, every little helps.

Carrefour, for its part, is ditching the stores as part of a new strategy to give up on areas where it's unlikely to become market leader, and push harder in places where it could be. It's performed the trick in various markets already, pulling out of of southern Italy, Mexico, Japan and Switzerland, to concentrate on the likes of Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and China instead. The latter, for instance, now accounts for nearly 70% of its stores in Asia, a region that generated 8% of its €86bn of sales last year. CEO Lars Olufsson said this week that he was even mulling a return to Russia.

The one bidder conspicuous by its absence is Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, which has previously said that it has identified south-east Asia as a potential area for expansion of its 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' strategy. Maybe it knows something Leahy doesn't. But if it remains out of the picture, Leahy will be hopeful that he can check out next March leaving Tesco with an even bigger basket than the one he's currently lugging around.

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