Tesco (TSCO) has continued the sell-off of its non-core operations with the agreement to sell an 8.6% equity stake in South East Asian e-commerce group Lazada to Chinese retail giant Alibaba for $129m (£90.5m) in cash.
It comes as reports surface that the supermarket group has appointed advisors to help it dispose of loss-making garden centre business Dobbies, as well as the Harris & Hoole coffee shops and family restaurant chain Giraffe.
Tesco first invested in Singapore-headquartered Lazada in November 2013 and prior to the sales held a 19.6% stake in the business having invested £124m to date.
Alibaba has also invested $500m in Lazada to becoming the controlling shareholder, giving the e-commerce business a $1.5bn valuation.
Tesco will still have an 8.3% share in the business following the deal, with Lazada shareholders, including Tesco, entering into a put-call arrangement with Alibaba to give the Chinese retailer the right to purchase the remainder of the group within the 12 to 18 months period.
Tesco said it would the proceeds from the transaction for general working capital purposes.
Tesco has sold its business in South Korea for £4bn since CEO Dave Lewis took charge and called off an auction of data arm Dunnhumby when it failed to attract high enough offers. There is also speculation Lewis may close the Euphorium bakery business after healthy living business Nutricentre was shut down earlier this month.
Tesco is set to announce its full-year figures tomorrow with the City optimistic that the retailer will reveal its first quarterly rise in like-for-like sales for more than three years.
Like-for-like retail sales slumped 0.7% in March as food retailers were hit by the timings of Easter and the ongoing battle for low prices, according to the latest British Retail Consortium figures. Total growth was flat for the sector last month, with clothing and footwear sales also putting in their worst performance since September 2014, despite increased promotional activity.
Three-month average food sales for January to March was dragged into negative territory (-0.7%) – the largest decrease since June, the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor showed. Non-food managed a 3% increase over the three months to take the overall UK picture to +1.4%.
David McCorquodale, head of retail for KPMG, said: “Despite the clock move bringing extra hours of daylight, there was no ‘spring forward’ for retail sales during March with growth broadly flat overall. The grocery sector’s drive for everyday low pricing and waste reduction contributed to the decline in food and drink sales, pulling the three-month average total sales into the negative. Looking ahead, retailers will be hoping for fewer April showers this month to entice spending on these newly launched ranges and to help alleviate the additional cost burden with the implementation of the national living wage.”
IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch added: “On the face of it these look like disappointing food and drink sales. However, it is difficult to make direct comparisons with last year, as Easter 2015 fell in April. Leaving aside the Easter distortions, the underlying sales trend remains relatively flat.”
Costa managing director Christopher Rogers is leaving the coffee chain, parent Whitbread has announced this morning. He will be stepping down from the board on 20 April to be succeeded by Dominic Paul, who takes up the role on 6 June. Rogers will remain with Costa until 1 July to show Paul, who joins from Royal Caribbean International, the ropes.
Yesterday in the City
Cranswick (CWK) shares took flight to record highs after it doubled down its bet on poultry with the £40m acquisition of Crown Chicken. The pork supplier, which bought Benson Park on 2014 to break into the chicken market, finished the day 16.4% higher at 2,538p, although it had been as high as 2,600p in the early afternoon.
Tesco (TSCO) made healthy gains of 1.6% to 193.5p as the City waits expectantly for some positive news to come out of Wednesday’s full-year results. Sainsbury’s (SBRY) also benefited from the good news in the sector to close 0.8% up at 290.9p. However, Morrisons (MRW) didn’t fare as well, finishing 0.1% down to 201.3p.
It was a day of general decline for grocery and fmcg stocks, with the FTSE 100 also slipping into the red (down 0.1% to 6,200.12 points).
Milling group CARR’s Group had a poor day after revealing falling revenues (down 9.4% to £189.1m) in the first half as a depressed farm gate milk price put pressure on the market. Its shares fell 3.6% to 147p.