Friday, August 20, 2010

UPDATE 1-PTT may bid for Carrefour's $600 mln Thai assets

Looking at opportunity in non-oil business

By Khettiya Jittapong and Pisit Changplayngam

BANGKOK, Aug 20 (Reuters) - PTT Pcl (PTT.BK), Thailand's biggest energy company, said on Friday it plans to bid for French retailer Carrefour's (CARR.PA) Thai assets, worth an estimated $600 million, under a plan to diversify its businesses.

Carrefour, Europe's top retailer, wants to sell its Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand units at a potential price of $1 billion to focus on core markets where it holds leading positions. [ID:nTOE66407H]

In recent years, Carrefour has withdrawn from other Asian markets, including Japan and South Korea, to focus on growing markets such as China and India.

"We are actually interested to see whether there's an opportunity to link to our businesses," Chief Financial Officer Tevin Vongvanich told Reuters.

"We are studying the plan, but there are no further details or information on the timing at this point," Tevin said.
PTT joins an increasingly crowded field expected to bid for the assets in September.

France's Casino (CASP.PA) has hired Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS.L) to advise it on a potential bid for Carrefour's Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand assets, two sources told Reuters in July.

Leading Thai conglomerate Berli Jucker Pcl (BJC.BK), owned by liquor tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhadi, expressed interest last month in bidding for Carrefour's Southeast Asian operations.

Singapore-listed Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd (DAIR.SI), which owns Cold Storage and Giant superstores in Singapore and Malaysia, and Britain's Tesco (TSCO.L) are also seen as potential bidders, sources said. Tesco and Dairy Farm have declined to comment.

Casino owns 36 percent of the Big C Supercentre chain, Thailand's second-largest hypermarket operator by number of stores after British-owned Tesco Lotus.


PTT Chief Executive Prasert Bunsumpun told analysts on Thursday PTT was studying whether to buy Carrefour's Thai assets.

Some industry analysts questioned whether buying Carrefour's Thai business would be a good fit for PTT, which already is in a partnership with CP ALL (CPALL.BK), operator of more than 5,000 7-Eleven convenient store branches in Thailand.

"We do not think it is a good idea. PTT does not have expertise in the wholesale business," Kasikorn Securities said in a note clients.

PTT, which also runs Jiffy convenient stores at its retail gas stations, is looking for assets overseas to boost growth and bolster its presence in international markets.

In Thailand, Carrefour has a market share of around 2 percent behind CP All, Tesco and Big C Supercenter (BIGC.BK), part-owned by France's Casino (CASP.PA), which are the top three retailers, according to RBS's recent research note.

Carrefour has 626 stores in Asia, with 424 in China alone. Of the rest, Indonesia has 76, Taiwan 65, Malaysia 19, Singapore two and Thailand 40, including 39 hypermarkets.

The Thai operations are expected to be valued at up to 19 billion baht ($603 million).

On Thursday, Big C said it was not involved in Casino's bid for Carrefour assets. ($1=31.51 Baht) (Editing by Jason Szep)

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