Thailand's Central sells stake in Big C to finance Vietnam deal: sources


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A taxi driver waits for his customers next to the logo of Big-C department store in central Bangkok, March 4, 2016. A taxi driver waits for his customers next to the logo of Big-C department store in central Bangkok, March 4, 2016.


Thailand's Central Group has sold out of domestic retail firm Big C Supercenter Pcl, accepting a tender offer from rival TCC Group in a deal that will help Central fund its purchase of a Vietnamese supermarket chain, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Central, Thailand's biggest retailer led by tycoon Tos Chirathivat, is expected to gain at least 50 billion baht ($1.4 billion) from the sale of its 25 percent holding, said one person close to the sale process.
The deal will allow TCC to cement its control of Big C Supercenter without worrying about interference from Central which founded the Thai retail firm in 1993 before selling a majority stake to France's Casino (CASP.PA) six years later.
The latest spate of deals stem from Casino's decision to sell its Thai and Vietnam units this year in an effort to cut debt. Both businesses encompass hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores.
Central lost out to TCC's flagship retail unit Berli Jucker in the battle to gain control of the Thai unit. But it emerged the winner for the Vietnam unit, called Big C Vietnam, agreeing to pay 920 million euros ($1.1 billion).
The people declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to media. Central and Berli did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Berli made a mandatory offer for the all the shares it does not own after buying Casino's 58.6 percent stake. Berli is expected to own more than 85 percent of Big C Supercenter once the tender offer closes on May 11, the sources said.
Central's purchase of Big C Vietnam is part of rush of deals in the country by Thai firms. They have been attracted by a quadrupling in average incomes during 15 years of economic growth at over 5 percent, and are keen to hedge against political and economic uncertainty back home after a military coup two years ago.
Vietnam's swelling middle-class also sees Thai products as better and more affordable than Japanese and Korean imports, and vastly preferable to the cheap but unpopular goods that flood across the border from China.
TCC purchased the Vietnam chain of German retailer Metro for 655 million euros last year.

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