Advent, KKR Said Among Buyout Firms Studying Bids for Boots
(Bloomberg) -- Advent International and KKR & Co. are among private equity firms studying potential bids for the international drugstore business being sold by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.
The Boots business is also attracting initial interest from Clayton Dubilier & Rice, the buyout firm that owns British grocer Wm Morrison Supermarket Plc, as well as Apollo Global Management Inc., the people said. The unit, which mostly operates pharmacies in the U.K., could be valued at as much as 7 billion pounds ($9.6 billion) in a sale, the people said.
Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners have teamed up as they consider making a joint offer for Boots, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Walgreens could kick off a sale process as soon as the coming weeks, the people said.
Boots runs a chain of roughly 2,200 stores in the U.K. that includes brands such as No7 Beauty Co. It also has smaller operations in Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand, as well as an optician business and a suite of private-label beauty and personal-care brands that could be included in the sale, one of the people said.
The business is no stranger to private equity ownership. KKR bought Boots alongside billionaire Stefano Pessina in 2007 and later sold it to Walgreens over two transactions in 2012 and 2014.
High Street Woes
Pessina remains the chairman and largest shareholder of Walgreens. As recently as 2019, he’d been reviewing a deal to take the company private amid interest from, once more, KKR. This raised the rare prospect of a private equity firm buying the same asset a second time.
Boots is likely to appeal to a small crop of suitors, with the British high street already struggling before the added impact of pandemic lockdowns. Potential bidders are in the early stages of evaluating the business, and there’s no certainty they will proceed with formal offers, according to the people.
Sky News reported earlier that Bain and CVC had teamed up for a potential bid, citing unidentified people. Representatives for Advent, Apollo, Bain, CD&R, CVC, KKR and Walgreens declined to comment.
Shares of Walgreens gained 0.5% to $54.19 at the close Thursday in New York, bucking the 1.4% decline in the benchmark S&P 500 Index.
Debt bankers are already starting preliminary work on potential financing packages for an acquisition of Boots, people with knowledge of the matter said. Lenders are in the early stages of discussing how they would help fund a possible deal, which could require 3.5 billion to 4 billion pounds of debt, according to the people.
Any debt financing is expected to consist of senior leveraged loans and subordinated debt, either in the form of high-yield bonds or second lien loans, they said. Denominations being considered include sterling, euros and dollars, the people said.
Walgreens Chief Executive Officer Rosalind Brewer said at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference this week that the company had begun a strategic review of Boots, in line with a move to optimize its portfolio and transform itself into a health care-focused group.
The company has been shifting toward expanding into other health-care markets in recent months, as drugstores face increased competitive pressure from Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers. In October, it agreed to invest $5.2 billion in primary-care provider VillageMD, doubling its stake in the company.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Walgreens was exploring options for Boots including a potential sale. The business is part of Walgreens’ international segment, which accounted for about 16% of the company’s 2021 revenue.
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