Author Topic: Tesco is exploring the possible sale of its Thailand Tesco-Lotus business  (Read 493 times)

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Offline thaiga

Tesco may seal Lotus' fate Thurs

LONDON — New Tesco boss Dave Lewis is expected to focus on cost cuts and asset sales — including the possible sale of its Tesco-Lotus venture in Thailand – when he provides an update on his plans to revive the troubled British grocer's fortunes on Thursday.

Britain's biggest retailer, reeling from an accounting scandal and four profit warnings that halved its share price last year, could also detail substantial property-asset write-offs to reflect the diminishing value of large out-of-town stores and development land, analysts have said.

Tesco will also report on third-quarter sales and the key Christmas trading period.

The accounting scandal led to the exit of several senior executives and sparked a series of investigations, including by Britain's Serious Fraud Office, and raised the spectre of possible investor lawsuits in Britain and the United States.

Mr Lewis was parachuted in from Unilever in September and said last month that detail on measures to strengthen Tesco's balance sheet and improve its competitiveness would be forthcoming on Jan 8.

However, he has repeatedly stated that investors should not expect him to lay out a major strategic blueprint for the next three years or put a figure on how many hundreds of millions of pounds he will invest in price cuts to narrow the gap with German discounters Aldi and Lidl in an attempt to stem its loss of market share in Britain.

With Tesco's debt rated by Moody's at one notch above junk status and under review for further downgrade, the need to shore-up its balance sheet is pressing.

Analysts expect cost cuts to be wrung from reducing Tesco's head office staff of about 4,000 and consolidating the firm's 32 UK offices. Tesco's different store formats could also work together to use their buying power more effectively.

Mr Lewis's stated preference is to raise funds by reducing costs and selling assets rather than issuing equity, while investors have told Reuters that they would rather the group sold or floated assets before they would consider a rights issue.

Potential disposals

Mr Lewis could signal that Tesco is exploring the possible sale of its Thailand Tesco-Lotus business. Valued by analysts at about 5 billion pounds, the operation has already drawn the interest of Charoen Pokphand, Thailand's largest agribusiness conglomerate.

Its South Korean business, with an estimated value of around 4 billion pounds, is another candidate, as is the possible sale of a stake in Tesco Bank.

Peripheral operations, such as video-streaming business Blinkbox, are expected to go but will not raise much cash. TalkTalk is in advanced talks to buy Blinkbox, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Mike Dennis reckons Tesco could signal 4 billion pounds of asset sales, a 2 billion pound write-down on British land and existing supermarkets, head office closure savings of 250 million pounds and annual cost reductions of 500 million pounds.

Tesco declined to comment.

Mr Lewis said in December that Tesco's third-quarter performance was slightly better than its showing in the first half of the year, when same-store sales fell 4.6%.

Bangkokpost
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