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Mar 28, 2022
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IPO still possible for Boots if bids fail to match asking price

Mar 28, 2022

While private equity firms circle up-for-sale Boots, don’t discount an IPO if takeover plans fall through, one of the health & beauty retailer’s key owners said Monday.

Boots No7

Ornella Barra, part owner and chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), said floating the chain as a standalone firm “is not off the table” if private equity firms don’t come up with a suitable bid, the Daily Mail reported.

Barra said an IPO had been the preferred initial approach to spin off the UK retail giant but had been sidelined after interest from a number of buyout giants.

“At the beginning we had the idea of an IPO, but we didn’t start the process because the offers came in,’ she told the newspaper.

Barra refused to rule out an IPO for the firm, however, saying “everything is on the table.”

“If the offers [from private equity bidders] are not in line with our expectations we could come back to an IPO.’ 

Barra said that the firm’s previous experience of private equity ownership had been positive.

“I remember the very interesting time from 2007 to 2014 with KKR. Boots had a very good experience,” she said.

WBA bosses have been meeting with private equity firms in recent weeks with suitors lining up to take over Boots. Last week, New York-based investment giant Apollo Global Management looked to be in the lead position with a £6 billion takeover bid, according to reports. 

US investment peer Sycamore Partners’ hat is also in the ring, alongside TDR Capital and the billionaire Issa brothers, owners of the Asda UK supermarket chain. A consortium of CVC Capital and Bain Capital had also been in contention, but dropped out after reportedly baulking at the price expectations of WBA.

Apollo is understood to be lining up banks including Bank of America, Credit Suisse and Royal Bank of Canada to fund a bid.

The sale of the firm will see the break-up of WBA which was formed in 2014 when Walgreens acquired the 55% stake in Alliance Boots that it did not already own, having taken a 45% stake in the firm two years earlier.

A new round of bids for Boots, which trades from more than 2,000 stores and employs over 50,000 people, is expected early next month.

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