KUALA LUMPUR: Japanâ€™s Aeon Co Ltd is interested in buying the Malaysian operations of Britainâ€™s Tesco PLC, valued at US$1.4bil (RM5.32bil), people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Japanâ€™s largest retailer has been venturing into South-East Asia where purchasing power is rising in fast-growing economies.
In contrast, growth has been hampered at home by deflation, sluggish consumer spending and a shrinking population.
It bought the Malaysian arm of French retailer Carrefour SA in 2012 for 250 million euros (US$275.08mil) and last year expanded e-money services in Thailand.
Buying Tescoâ€™s operations would make Aeon Malaysiaâ€™s biggest hypermarket group. The Japanese retailer has 28 hypermarkets in the country and plans to open 100 more stores in various formats by 2020. Aeon also owns 51.7% of Aeon Co (M) Bhd, which has 29 outlets and four MaxValu supermarkets in Malaysia.
Tesco is currently seeking buyers for its US$6bil South Korean business and a stake in data-gathering arm Dunnhumby, to fund a turnaround in its core home market.
Britainâ€™s biggest retailer is recovering from an accounting scandal and the loss of market share to discount chains Aldi and Lidl.
Aeon, which started out selling traditional kimono clothing in the late 1700s, is keen to buy Tescoâ€™s Malaysia unit and has informally discussed its interest with corporate advisers, one person familiar with the matter said.
â€œItâ€™s still in the very early stage,â€ said one of the people.
â€œIt would only come after they are done with South Korea and Dunnhumby.â€ The people declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak with media on the matter.
Tesco, which has not expressed any intention to sell its Malaysian business, declined to comment. A spokesman for Aeon said the company is not in negotiations with Tesco.
A spokesman for Sime Darby Bhd, which owns 30% of Tescoâ€™s Malaysian arm, said the Malaysian plantation-to-autos conglomerate will always evaluate opportunities that may enhance shareholder value.
Sime Darbyâ€™s latest annual report showed Tesco operates 49 stores throughout Malaysia. Net profit rose 73% to RM82.2mil last year, on revenue that rose 1.1% to RM4.65bil, the report showed. â€“ Reuters