SINGAPORE/HANOI -- Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC is among investors vying to buy up to 20 percent stake in grocer Bach Hoa Xanh from Vietnam's retail giant Mobile World Investment, in a deal that could value the grocery chain at up to $1.7 billion, two sources said.
GIC declined to comment. Other bidders include companies from Thailand, the sources added, declining to be named as the matter is private. The identity of the potential buyers has not been reported previously.
"The deal is nearing to the finalising stage and expected to close soon," one of the sources with knowledge of the matter said, adding that a deal could be sealed as early as the first quarter of next year if negotiations are successful.
In a statement to Reuters, Mobile World said it would announce the information once the deal was concluded.
"We are still in a private placement and have signed an agreement not to disclose information with interested bidders," it said.
The potential deal would intensify competition in Vietnam's retail market. Drawn by the rapid urbanization in a country of 100 million people, domestic and foreign retailers are seeking to expand or gain a foothold.
The sources said the deal could value Bach Hoa Xanh, Vietnam's third largest grocery chain, at around $1.5-$1.7 billion.
Vietnam has attracted strong investor interest as companies look to reconfigure global supply chains as a result of geopolitical tensions between China and the United States.
Founded in 2015, Bach Hoa Xanh, backed by Vietnam's retail giant Mobile World Investment, is running more than 1,700 stores in Vietnam's southern and south-central provinces.
Mobile World decided in recent months to go ahead with the planned sale after putting it on hold earlier this year due to unfavorable market conditions, the sources said. The Ho Chi Minh City-headquartered company had first planned the sale of a stake of up to 20% in Bach Hoa Xanh last year.
Bach Hoa Xanh was expected to be profitable from next year, its managing director told investors last month.
Its net loss in the first half of this year shrank to $26.98 million from a full-year loss of $123.03 million in 2022.
Revenue in the first half rose seven percent on-year to $557.72 million.
One of the world's biggest investors, GIC has stakes in Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup's medical unit, Vinmec and major lender Vietcombank among other investments in the country.
($1 = 24,385 dong)