Thai conglomerate buys Big C for $3.4bn
Feb 15, 2016
Marking its first full-fledged step into the retail market, Thai conglomerate Thai Charoen Corporation (TCC) Group, owned by alcohol tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, has agreed to buy a majority stake in supermarket operator Big C Supercenter for 3.1 billion euros ($3.4 billion), excluding debts, from France’s Casino Group.
Big C operates roughly 700 supermarkets, including 125 hypermarkets, throughout Thailand and is the second largest supermarket operator after Tesco Lotus, owned by the U.K.’s Tesco.
According to a Casino Group release, Big C shares are valued at 252.88 baht ($7.1) per share, a 28% premium to the share price on Jan. 14 when Casino Group initially announced the disposal of its 58.56% stake, currently held through two local subsidiaries. The deal is to be closed by the end of March.
TCC Group is the parent company of Thai Beverage, the flagship alcohol and beverages company known for its Chang beers.
Billionaire Charoen has been expanding his reach within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the 2013 takeover of Singapore beverage company Fraser and Neave, but until now his retail operations have been relatively small. In January, the group completed its acquisition of German cash-and-carry chain Metro’s Vietnamese unit.
The Big C acquisition in Thailand, where consumers have a higher purchasing power than neighboring countries, will likely boost the conglomerate’s retail operations. Big C is expected to become a channel for the promotion of products of other companies within the group, such as Thai Beverage, F&N and Berli Jucker.
The 28% premium may seem a somewhat high, but analysts say that this was one of the few chances left for Charoen to make a move into the Thai retail sector.
After Carrefour’s Thai business was acquired by Big C in 2011 and Siam Makro, another cash-and-carry chain under a Dutch trading company was purchased by Charoen Pokphand Group in 2013, Big C and Tesco were the only foreign-owned retailers whose stake holdings could be put up for sale.
“All the big family conglomerates are eager to acquire these foreign holdings,” Anuwat Srikajornratkul, analyst with Asia Plus Securities, said. “The retail market is already saturated and the best way to expand is to acquire an existing brand instead of building new brands,” he explained.
Agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, which runs Thailand’s Seven Eleven stores, is reportedly seeking to acquire Tesco Lotus.
Casino Group, meanwhile, is expecting to reduce its debt by 3.3 billion euros through the sale. As part of its restructuring plan, it is also considering the disposal of its stake in Big C’s Vietnamese unit. Analysts speculate that TCC Group will likely compete for that acquisition too.
Following the announcement, Big C shares shot up by 10% to 251 baht, a one-year-high during Monday’s trading hours. Berli Jucker shares soared nearly 20% also closing in to a one-year-high. Thai Beverage had no trading Monday as it is listed on the Singapore bourse, which was closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.
According to Thai regulations, TCC Group will have to conduct a tender offer for all the remaining Big C shares after the deal is closed.
Local media had reported that Thailand’s largest retailer Central Group was also interested in purchasing the Big C stake. Central initially founded Big C in Thailand and opened its first store in 1994. However, in the wake of the Asia Financial Crisis, it sold most of its stake to Casino Group in 1999.
Central is also reportedly interested in bidding for Big C Vietnam.
Central owners the Chirathiwat family currently hold a minority stake in Big C Thailand. Analysts say that the family could sell off all its remaining stake through TCC’s tender offer.
Source: Retail News Asia