France's Carrefour, Europe's top retailer, is exiting Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to focus on markets where it has a leading position, sources with knowledge of the matter have previously told Reuters.
What is not clear whether the sale will be in the form of a packaged deal or the assets will be sold separately, said a source with knowledge of the deal.What Carrefour would like is for someone to come up with a sweetener and buy all three assets in one go. The seller will surely like that.
French retailer Casino Guichard Perrachon SA and Singapore's Dairy Farm International Holding Ltd were among companies expected to submit bids on Wednesday, sources said, with each group being advised by a team of investment banks.
Other parties said to be interested in the sale included, Britain's Tesco Plc , Thailand's Berli Jucker Pcl and Thailand's biggest energy company PTT Pcl .
Several strategic buyers are hoping to consolidate their position in the three Southeast Asian markets where consumer spending is set to accelerate on the back of strong economic growth.
Carrefour and the companies mentioned either could not immediately be reached or declined to comment. The sources involved did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the auction process.
Carrefour had split the sale into two, with the Singapore and Malaysia business being offered in one deal and Thailand being sold separately, sources said.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc and UBS AG (UBSN.VX> are advising Carrefour on the deal.
Carrefour has 626 stores in Asia, with more than two-thirds in China alone. Indonesia has 76, Taiwan 65, Malaysia 19, Singapore two and Thailand 40, including 39 hypermarkets.
In recent years, Carrefour has pulled out of Japan and South Korea and the latest exit comes as Carrefour battles sluggish sales in Europe.
In 2009, Asia accounted for 7.9 percent of Carrefour's sales of 85.9 billion euros ($111 billion), while Thailand contributed 9.1 percent of Asian sales, based on the company's latest accounts, giving Thailand sales of about $800 million.
Thai broker Phillip Securities has put a sale price of 16 billion to 19 billion baht ($496-590 million) on the Thai operations.
In Thailand, Carrefour has a market share of around 2 percent behind CP All Pcl , Tesco and Big C Supercenter Pcl , part-owned by Casino, the top three retailers there, according to RBS.
(Reporting by Denny Thomas and Saeed Azhar; Editing by Chris Lewis)