Carlyle, MBK on bidders’ shortlist for Tesco S.Korea unit-sources: Reuters

SEOUL/HONG KONG, July 2 (Reuters) – Carlyle Group and MBK Partners are among the shortlisted bidders for Tesco PLC’s South Korea business which is valued at about $6 billion, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

The sale could be the biggest ever private equity acquisition in Asia. Goldman Sachs’ private equity arm and Affinity Equity Partners were also on the list, the people added, declining to be named due to the confidentiality of the matter.

It was not immediately clear whether KKR & Co, which was invited to bid for the business, had progressed to the next round. Earlier, the Korea Economic Daily reported only four funds –
Affinity, Carlyle, Goldman Sachs’ private equity arm and MBK – had been shortlisted, without mentioning KKR.

Bids for the next round are due in mid-August, the sources said.

Orion Corp, a non-private equity suitor, failed to move to the next round, the people added. Hyundai Department Store Co Ltd, which had flagged interest in the unit, did not bid, a company spokesman said.

KKR, MBK, Goldman Sachs, Carlyle and Orion Corp declined to comment. A spokesman for Tesco’s South Korean unit did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Tesco is exploring the sale of its South Korean unit which analysts say is its best bet as the British supermarket group seeks to cut debt and fund a turnaround plan at home.

The group, whose credit rating was cut to “junk” status by Moody’s and S&P in January, is battling to recover from an accounting scandal. It is also struggling to regain the market share in Britain it lost to discount chains Aldi and Lidl. (Reporting by Joyce Lee in SEOUL; Denny Thomas; and Elzio Barreto in HONG KONG; Additiona reporting by Chien Mi Wong at IFR/BasisPoint; Editing by Tom Brown and Miral Fahmy)