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Boots UK: When could the chain's parent company decide on a buyer?

As new bidders reportedly enter the mix, C+D speculates on when the sale of Boots UK might conclude.

Boots’ parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance first announced it was conducting a “strategic review” of its UK arm early this year, following rumours in December 2021 that it was “exploring” selling off the pharmacy chain.

Since then, prospective buyers have dropped in and out of the running, Walgreens Boots Alliance has offered to keep a 30% stake in Boots when it is sold, and the final bidding deadline has reportedly been extended multiple times.

So, what's next for Boots UK and when can we expect confirmation on who has decided to snap up the chain?

 

What’s new?

 

Now pegged as the "frontrunners" to buy the health and beauty giant, Indian company Reliance Industries and American private equity firm Apollo are the newcomers to the Boots auction and placed a multi-billion pound joint bid for Boots last week (June 8), according to The Times.

The news outlet claimed that Reliance – controlled by “India’s richest man” Mukesh Ambani – and Apollo suggested paying between £5.5 billion and £6bn for the pharmacy chain last Wednesday.

Boots’ parent company would “keep a stake of between 30 and 40%” in its UK business under the duo’s proposal, the report added.

“The bidders have already developed a plan to expand Boots into India and Asia,” The Times claimed, “which appealed to Walgreens [Boots Alliance] because it means that by keeping a stake it can benefit from future growth without committing its own financial resources.”

 

Parent company sets no timeline for sale

 

Responding to C+D's request for information on Reliance and Apollo’s bid, a Walgreens Boots Alliance spokesperson said today (June 13) that “the company isn’t commenting on the process and has never indicated a timeline [for the sale]”.

The Times, however, suggested that Walgreens Boots Alliance was “keen on making an announcement on the outcome of its auction before its results at the end of the month”.

“Sources said that the Walgreens board would probably deliver its verdict in the next couple of days,” it added last week.

Negotiations seem to have dragged on longer than the company planned, as Sky News reported in April that Walgreens Boots Alliance’s advisers at Goldman Sachs had notified bidders to submit their formal offers for Boots by May 16.

 

Who else is interested?

 

It is unclear whether Asda’s owners – the Issa brothers and TDR Capital­­ – are still in the running, as news reports emerged last month that their interest in the  sale was waning.

The Times wrote last week that Asda’s interest in the multiple was “hanging by a thread” and had recently “gone quiet”, after they reportedly threatened to abandon the bid due to a disagreement over price.

Meanwhile, Sky news reported in April that Walgreens Boots Alliance might receive “fewer than a handful of bids” for Boots as “the backdrop of inflation and other cost pressures [were] expected to hamper Boots’ near-term financial performance”.

According to the latest data by Walgreens Boots Alliance, the Boots UK holds 2,141 pharmacy contracts.

 

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