Tesco said it expects to complete the $10.6 billion sale of its Asian businesses to CP Retail Development Company Limited on December 18, paving the way for a return of £5 billion to shareholders. 

Tesco agreed to sell its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia to CP Group in March. 

It said that CP Group had now reviewed and was satisfied with the formal notice of approval from the Office of Trade Competition Commission in Thailand. 

This, plus the approval received from the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs in Malaysia on November 10, means there are no further conditions outstanding and the disposal is expected to complete on or around December 18. 

"This sale allows us to focus on our businesses across Europe and to continue delivering for customers, make a significant contribution to our pension deficit and return value to shareholders," Tesco CEO Ken Murphy said. 

Tesco intends to return about £5 billion of the net proceeds to shareholders via a special dividend, together with a share consolidation.

It also plans to put £2.5 billion into the Tesco Pension Scheme shortly following completion of the deal.

The special dividend is expected to be paid around February 26 2021, conditional on shareholder approval at a general meeting around February 11. 

Last week, Tesco said it would pay back to the UK government £585m of Covid-19 business rates relief, which prompted rivals to do the same. 

Ken Murphy said the decision to return the relief was "completely disconnected" to its plans to pay a special dividend once the Asian business was sold.