Thai tycoons said to compete for Casino's Southeast Asia units

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Thai tycoons said to compete for Casino's Southeast Asia units

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Some of Thailand’s richest families are preparing to compete for the Southeast Asian operations of French supermarket operator Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s TCC Holding Co. and the Chirathivat family’s Central Group are weighing first-round bids for the Big C Supercenter chains in Thailand and Vietnam, which are due Feb. 5, the people said. The companies have been speaking with banks about advisory roles and financing options, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the process is private.
The prospect of a competitive auction for the assets spurred Casino shares Friday, lifting the stock as much as 7.5 percent in Paris. Casino’s controlling stake in Bangkok-listed unit Big C Supercenter Pcl could fetch more than $3 billion, while a sale of its Vietnam business could raise as much as $800 million, the people said. The Vietnamese operations have also drawn interest from Tokyo-based retailer Aeon Co., two of the people said.
A deal would add to the $54.9 billion of acquisitions in Southeast Asia over the past 12 months, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The proposed disposals are part of Casino’s plan to cut debt by more than 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion) this year, after its share price slumped 45 percent in 2015. Attacks on the grocer’s accounting by short-seller Carson Block’s Muddy Waters LLC have accelerated that drop in the past month.
Department stores
Casino may sell its businesses in the two countries together or separately, depending on the offers it receives, the people said. The French company owns 58.6 percent of Bangkok-listed Big C Supercenter.
A person who answered the phone at Charoen’s office in Bangkok said he wasn’t available for comment. Spokesmen for Aeon and Big C Supercenter declined to comment, while representatives for Casino, Central Group and TCC didn’t answer phone calls seeking comment. An investor-relations official for Berli Jucker Pcl, the Bangkok-listed consumer goods distributor controlled by TCC, also didn’t answer a phone call seeking comment.
Central Group is among Thailand’s biggest conglomerates, employing over 70,000 people in businesses from retail to real estate, according to its website. It bought Italian luxury department store La Rinascente in 2011 and Danish department store Illum in 2013.
Richest man
TCC, led by Thailand’s richest man, agreed last year to buy Metro AG’s Cash & Carry wholesale business in Vietnam for 655 million euros. The conglomerate acquired control of Singapore food and beverage maker Fraser & Neave Ltd. in 2013.
Big C Supercenter, founded by the Chirathivat family, opened its first store in Bangkok in 1994. Casino took control of the Thai-listed company five years later.
Shares of Big C Supercenter have gained 15 percent this year, giving it a market value of 191.4 billion baht ($5.3 billion). The company had 580 stores in Thailand at the end of March 2014, ranging from hypermarkets to convenience stores, according to its website.

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