(Adds "millions" in Grab investment in 11th paragraph)
* Central Group plans to file for listing by year-end
* Group to delist retail subsidiary Robinson Pcl
By Chayut Setboonsarng
BANGKOK, July 31 (Reuters) - Top Thai retailer Central Group, owned by the billionaire Chirathivat family, said on Wednesday it would list its unit Central Retail Corp, combining retail businesses in Thailand, Vietnam and Italy.
Taking the business public would allow Central to better engage with international partners, attract talent and take advantage of capital markets, Central Group President Yol Phokasub told reporters.
The company intends to file for the listing by the year-end, he said, but declined to give any further details. Refinitiv IFR has pegged the IPO size at between $1 billion and $2 billion.
Central Group, the family conglomerate with a seven-decade history, was among the first to introduce shopping malls to Bangkok.
Central Retail's listing comes amid intense competition among retailers and online shopping. Last year, rival Siam Piwat opened a billion-dollar luxury shopping mall, while the Mall Group also plans a new $300 million entertainment and retail complex.
Central is betting that its multiple formats, segments and platforms will win over customers.
"We are integrating online and offline," Yol said, adding that its platforms were especially focused on personalisation, based on data from its 27 million customers worldwide.
Central Retail booked 53.6 billion baht ($1.74 billion) in revenue in the three months ended March, up 6% from a year earlier. The Thai market accounted for 76% of revenue, while 16% came from Vietnam and the remainder from Italy.
The company has 2,000 stores in Thailand, 134 in Vietnam, and nine in Italy under the Rinascente brand.
Sales are under pressure as e-commerce gains popularity in Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, with Alibaba's Lazada and Tencent-backed Sea Ltd's Shopee battling for market share.
Central's online strategy has been patchy with the acquisition of Zalora Thailand, a $500 million joint venture with China's JD.com and a $200 million investment in the Thai unit of Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab.
As part of the share sale, Central will delist another retail subsidiary, Robinson Pcl, where it holds a majority stake, with a tender offer for the newly issued shares with no cash alternative.
Central Group's other subsidiaries include commercial property developer Central Patana Pcl and hospitality arm Central Plaza Hotel Pcl. ($1 = 30.7700 baht) (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)