Tesco's Asia deal paves way for 5 billion pound shareholder windfall

Tesco's Asia deal paves way for 5 billion pound shareholder windfall

2/2 © Reuters. An entrance of Tesco Lotus retail shop is seen in Bangkok, Thailand © Reuters. An entrance of Tesco Lotus retail shop is seen in Bangkok, Thailand 2/2

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Shareholders in Tesco (OTC:TSCDY) can look forward to a 5 billion pound ($6.7 billion) windfall in the new year after the group said it would complete a $10.6 billion sale of its Asian businesses to Thailand's CP Group next week.

Tesco agreed to sell its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia to Dhanin Chearavanont's CP Group in March.

Britain's biggest retailer said that CP Group, which runs its 12,000 7-Eleven convenience stores through CP All and about 80 cash-and-carry stores under Siam Makro, was satisfied with the approval notice from Thailand's Office of Trade Competition Commission.

This, plus approval from the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs in Malaysia on Nov. 10, means there are no further conditions outstanding and the disposal is expected to complete on or around Dec. 18.

"This sale allows us to focus on our businesses across Europe and to continue delivering for customers, make a significant contribution to our pension deficit and return value to shareholders," said Tesco CEO Ken Murphy.

Tesco plans to return about 5 billion pounds of the proceeds to shareholders via a special dividend, together with a share consolidation, and will also put 2.5 billion pounds into its pension fund.

The special dividend is expected to be paid around Feb. 26 2021, conditional on shareholder approval at a meeting around Feb. 11.

Last week, Tesco said it would pay back to government 585 million pounds of COVID-19 business rates relief, which prompted rivals to do the same.

Murphy said the decision to return the relief was "completely disconnected" to its plans to pay a special dividend.

Shares in Tesco were up 1.3% at 1007 GMT, paring 2020 losses to 10.8%.

While Britain's three major quoted retailers – Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons – have performed well during the pandemic, their share prices have not.

"We see strong value in UK supermarkets, manifested in fulsome (free cash flow) yields that if equity markets do not value then acquirers will," said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black.

($1 = 0.7448 pounds)

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