Dhanin breaks silence on deals

Dhanin breaks silence on deals

Tycoon wants to buy Tesco, mulls LH Bank

After months of reports suggesting he is on course to buy LH Bank and Britain's giant hypermarket Tesco Lotus, Dhanin Chearavanont, Thailand's richest man, has broken the silence for the first time to confirm he is keen on buying them if they are put up for sale.

"I'm a businessman. I look forward to investing and taking opportunities in any business that can make a profit," the chairman of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, Thailand's largest agribusiness conglomerate, said at a rare meeting with the media Monday.

Charoen Pokphand Group chairman Dhanin Chearavanont, Thailand's wealthiest man, has broken his silence to confirm he is keen on buying LH Bank and Tesco Lotus if they are available at the right price. (Photo by Tawatchai Khemgumnerd)

CP Group last year was active in buying including a 188-billion-baht deal for cash-and-carry giant Makro and Chinese insurer Ping An.

Mr Dhanin confirmed CP was interested in buying Tesco's assets in Thailand and LH Bank, but said the deals were not yet settled.

"I'd take the opportunity to buy anything if it had potential and a good price," Mr Dhanin said.

He said CP had a policy of investing in good businesses abroad if those companies welcomed the group to help support their steady growth.

"We have everything. Raw materials across the globe belong to CP, talented people in the world belong to CP, and money also belongs to CP. It depends on us how to maximise the benefits from them, and it depends on whether those companies will let us in," Mr Dhanin said.

"We have a policy of acquiring 10-20% in good companies around the world. If these companies can grow five-fold, we'll make 100% profit."

However, he denied reports last week that the Tesco operation in Thailand was already a done deal.

"I was startled when I saw the reports. How is it the reporters know before I do?" he said, adding that he never heard of or saw any approaches from anyone from Tesco, nor had he ever approached Tesco.

He pointed out that Tesco's business in Thailand was relatively strong and said with Tesco's chief executive in Britain appointed only a month ago, it was impossible he would make such a major decision in such a short time.

"I never heard him [Tesco's chief executive] say the Tesco business would be put up for sale. Personally, I think they still have options since they're not going to go bankrupt. Actually, I don't think they need to sell the assets. I believe the financial institutions are ready to offer them loans," Mr Dhanin said.

Since early this year, CP Group's CP All, operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Thailand, has dominated headlines with its negotiations with the major shareholder of LH Bank in a bid to enter the microfinance business through its 10,000 7-Eleven outlets nationwide. 

Late last month, after Britain's Tesco reported its worst performance in its 95-year history and the possibility of selling its most profitable Asian assets, CP Group was in the headlines again.

Mr Dhanin said even though many investment bankers and financial institutions had approached him and he was definitely interested in a deal, the chief executive of Tesco had not said a word about putting anything up for sale.

"Tesco Lotus was like my child. I had to sell it over a decade ago due to the 1997 financial crisis. Now we're definitely interested in buying it back," Mr Dhanin said.

As for LH Bank, he admitted there had been negotiations about potentially acquiring the bank, but said nothing had yet been finalised.

Mr Dhanin also admitted CP Group lacked familiarity with the banking business.


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