Bryan Roberts: Tesco’s Asian windfall would be better spent on stores

Tesco Lotus

The ongoing unravelling of the great retail globalisation myth has taken its latest step with the news that Tesco has completed its withdrawal from Asia, through the proposed sale of its operations in Thailand and Malaysia.

The grocer still has a foothold in India, but this consists of support services and wholesaling to Star Bazaar. Previous exits from South Korea and China mean that Tesco has reverted to being a purely European retailer.

Tesco, alongside fellow globetrotters like Walmart, Carrefour, Casino, Ahold and Delhaize, embarked on a chequebook-wielding frenzy around the world in the 1990s – often under the guise of achieving the nebulous concept of global scale – but all of them have long since given up these world-straddling aspirations.

Instead, often prompted by decidedly underwhelming market conditions at home, they have collectively pulled out of dozens of countries to focus on fewer markets, making bigger bets on countries where genuine success is feasible.

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