Tesco is considering a sale of its Thai and Malaysian stores that could result in Britain’s largest supermarket chain exiting two of its last remaining international businesses.
In a statement published on Sunday afternoon, the supermarket said it had started a review of the businesses after an approach by an unnamed buyer.
Tesco operates 1,967 stores in Thailand and another 74 in Malaysia, employing more than 60,000 people. The businesses made combined revenues of £4.9bn in the year ending in February, making a profit of £286m.
A sale of the Asian business would leave Ireland and central Europe as Tesco’s only remaining non-UK operations.
Its chief executive, Dave Lewis, sold off Tesco’s South Korean business in 2015 as he sought to shore up the company’s balance sheet after a major accounting scandal was revealed in 2014. That sale earned Tesco £4bn.
Lewis, who plans to leave Tesco in the summer after overseeing the turnaround from the accounting scandal, had previously given indications that Tesco had reached the end of its period of asset sales. However, the company would examine serious bids, a person with knowledge of the company’s strategy said. Potential buyers could include family-owned conglomerates or private equity investors, the person said.
Tesco’s statement said: “Tesco confirms that, following inbound interest, it has commenced a review of the strategic options for its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, including an evaluation of a possible sale of these businesses.
“The evaluation of strategic options is at an early stage, no decisions concerning the future of Tesco Thailand or Malaysia have been taken and there can be no assurance that any transaction will be concluded.”