Britain's largest drugstore chain Boots has set a 24 February deadline to receive indicative bids from a series of deep-pocketed investors that could value the 173-year old firm at up to £8 billion (€9.6 billion), two sources told Reuters.
The sale will see US drugstore giant Walgreens, which has backed Boots since 2012, cashing out from one of Britain's best-known retailers operating more than 2,200 stores and employing about 51,000 people.
It will also lead to the dismantling of the Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), which was set up in 2014 when Walgreens took full control of the health and beauty chain, creating a global behemoth with overall revenues of $132.5 billion (€158.8 billion) in 2021.
WBA declined to comment. Its chief executive Rosalind Brewer said on 11 January that a strategic review was underway due to the company's increased focus on US healthcare. "While the process is at an exploratory stage, we do expect to move quickly," she said.
Valued at £6 billion to £8 billion, Boots is being sold as part of an auction process led by Goldman Sachs and targeting financial investors with a track record of turning around high street retailers, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential.
Private equity firm TDR Capital, which owns supermarket chain Asda, is working on a bid plan to secure control of Boots and integrate it into Asda's stores, which already operate a limited network of UK pharmacies, the sources said.
But TDR, led by co-founders Manjit Dale and Stephen Robertson in 2002, faces competition from a consortium of CVC Capital Partners and Bain Capital as well as US investment firms Sycamore Partners, Advent and Apollo, which are all lining up bids for Boots, the sources said.
CD&R Puts Plans On Hold
US buyout firm CD&R, which initially expressed interest in combining Boots with its own supermarket chain Morrisons, had to put its plans on hold after Britain's competition regulator deepened its probe into the Morrisons takeover in January, banning any move by CD&R to integrate the UK grocer with other portfolio companies.
Sycamore Partners, Bain Capital and CD&R declined to comment while TDR, CVC, Advent and Apollo were not immediately available.