Baring PE Asia Plans to Sell Courts Mammoth

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Baring Private Equity Asia has hired Swiss bank UBS (UBSN.VX) (UBS.N) to advise on the sale of its Malaysian portfolio company Courts Mammoth, in a deal that may fetch $300 million, sources said on Monday.

Courts, Malaysia’s largest consumer electronics and furniture retailer and once listed in both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, was taken private in 2007 by a private equity consortium including Baring and Topaz Investment Worldwide for about $84 million.

UBS had been looking for bidders for Courts, which also operates businesses in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, for some months but initial market response had been tough, mainly on price concerns, said the sources.

“It’s a good company, so Baring doesn’t want to sell cheaply in a hurry, while potential buyers feel they should probably wait and see for a bit more time,” said one of the sources.

The sources have direct knowledge of the plan, but declined to be identified as the sale process is private.

UBS declined to comment. Courts and Baring could not be immediately reached for comment.

UBS is mainly helping Baring seek private equity buyers to take over Courts as Baring aims to cash out from its investment and focus more on the Greater China market, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said the sources.


Courts, seen as a combination of Swedish furniture chain IKEA and China’s top home appliance retailer GOME (0493.HK), started with one store in Johor Bahru over 20 years ago and is now the top Malaysian appliances and furniture retailer.

Some U.S. and Asia funds have been invited to look at Courts’ books in the past few months, but none have made formal bids, the sources added.

Topaz Investment Worldwide also agreed to Baring’s plan to sell Courts if an attractive deal can be reached, one of the sources said.

Private equity funds, betting on strong economic recovery in Asia, especially China, have been chasing investments in consumer driven sectors. In June, U.S. buyout fund Bain Capital agreed to invest up to $418 million in Beijing-based GOME, dubbed “China’s Best Buy”, beating rival bidders including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

By George Chen
(Additional reporting by Michael Flaherty in HONG KONG, Saeed Azhar in SINGAPORE and Julie Goh in KUALA LUMPUR; Editing by Mathew Veedon)