France's Casino puts Vietnam Big C chain on the block

HO CHI MINH CITY - Casino Group plans to unload the Big C hypermarket chain in Vietnam, as part of a restructuring plan to strengthen its financial flexibility in 2016.

In a news release posted on its website on Tuesday, the French group said it aims to shave off more than 2 billion euros (S$3.07 billion) of debt. In addition to selling the Vietnamese Big C business, the company said it is mulling "real estate transactions in Thailand."

Potential investors interested in buying the Big C operations include Thai conglomerates and Vietnamese property developer Vingroup, according to local sources. Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that the sale could raise 750 million euros, citing Bruno Monteyne, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.

Brisk sales

Big C was one of the first international chains to gain a foothold in the Vietnamese market, where modern retailing is still in the early stages of development. The first of the French-style hypermarkets opened in the country back in 1998. As of December, the chain consists of 32 outlets and 10 C-Express convenience stores across Vietnam.

It is one of the top five retailers in Vietnam, with total sales in the first half of 2015 reaching 312 million euros, up 26.4% on the year.

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