Asda lines up to begin £7bn bid for Boots

Boots store front
// Bidders for Boots’ £7 billion business are meeting with management this week.
// Current front-runners include Asda’s owners and a number of private equity firms.

Bidders for Boots’ £7 billion business are lining up to begin meeting with the high street chemist’s management this week, according to The Times.

Current front-runners include the billionaire Issa brothers, owners of Asda and EG Group, who are looking to add the chain of 2,200 pharmacy-led health and beauty stores to their retail empire.

The Issa brothers are competing against private equity firms Apollo and Sycamore Partners, which have submitted non-binding bids as part of their pursuit to acquire Boots,

Previous suitors included a Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners consortium, which abandoned its first-round bid earlier this year, throwing Boots’ sale into doubt.

American owner Walgreens is going ahead with the planned sale in an auction process run by Goldman Sachs, despite current volatile market conditions.

READ MORE: Bain and CVC ditch Boots auction as Asda leads the chase

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to corporate debt markets seizing up and in some cases being frozen altogether, which could make it difficult for the private equity firms to finance an acquisition.

A source close to the Bain-CVC consortium suggested it could  if Walgreens was willing to consider a lower price.

The group had been touted as an early frontrunner because CVC’s Dominic Murphy also sits on the Walgreens board and was involved in the £11 billion takeover of Alliance Boots by KKR, back in 2007.

The Times also reported that city sources are sceptical that Sycamore Partners, which is also circling fashion chain Ted Baker, will make a firm offer for Boots.

Boots currently trades from more than 2,200 stores and employs around 51,000 people, making it one of the UK’s biggest private sector employers.

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