Tesco M’sia says Goodbye

March 23, 2020

Malaysians will miss Tesco. After 18 years here, UK’s largest grocer, Tesco Plc, says goodbye.

The sale of Tesco’s Malaysian and Thai operations to Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s CP Group for US$10.6 billion marks the conclusion of Tesco’s Asian operations. Tesco had exited from China in February 2020 after the sale of its stake to state-run partner, China Resources Holdings. In 2015 Tesco sold its S.Korean operations to MBK Partners, the biggest private equity fund in S. Korea. MBK is founded by Harvard University educated Michael Kim Byung-ju in 2005 according to Korea News Plus. The hedge fund paid US$6.1 billion for the Tesco deal. Earlier in 2012 Tesco sold its loss making Japanese operations to Aeon group. The Japanese market has always been the toughest for foreign penetration.

Dhanin Chearavanont, the wealthiest man in Thailand and founder of the CP Group, stepped down in January 2017 to make way for his two sons, Soopakij Chearavanont (Group Chairman) and Suphachai Chearavanont (CEO) to helm one of the world’s biggest agribusiness conglomerate. It is a feather in the cap for the second generation Chearavanonts to have won the bid for Tesco’s Thai and Malaysian operations. The taste is sweeter because the CP group had earlier sold the bulk of its Thai stores to Tesco Plc in 1998 when Tesco set foot in Thailand during the Asian Financial Crisis (AF Crisis). Today it buys back what it sold plus more, a total of 1,965 stores (supercenters and convenience stores).

The CP Group also runs 12,000 7-Eleven convenience stores through CP All and about 80 cash-and-carry stores under Siam Makro (MAKRO.BK).  Siam Makro started as a Joint Venture between SHV Holdings from the Netherlands and CP group which held a 51% stake. The AF Crisis made the CP Group sell out all its stake but in 2013 the CP Group acquired total control of Siam Makro for US$6.6 billion according to the Bangkok Post when SHV Holdings sold its 64% stake to CP Group and a mandatory offer led to full control of Siam Makro.

The wheel has turned full circle for the Chearavanonts with regard to the Thai Tesco and Makro stores. It is a great start for Dhanin’s boys in 2020. For Malaysians, an ASEAN partner makes a strong footprint here. Many workers will still have a job. It is far better than closed down vacant stores.