Britain’s billionaire Issa brothers and Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani are preparing to face off in the final battle for the Boots drugstore chain, one of the UK high street’s most recognizable names.
The Issas are seen as the party to beat ahead of next week’s deadline for proposals, after they submitted the highest offer in the first round, sources said. The duo are going up against Ambani, who’s been working on a bid with buyout firm Apollo Global Management Inc.
Bidders are now sizing up Boots’ billions in pension guarantees – which they’ll have to take on – as they figure out how much they can pay for the business. They’re also working around the clock to arrange financing in a difficult market, which has gotten tougher due to the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and rising interest rates, according to sources.
That’s a lot to sort through, and suitors are getting a few extra days to firm their bids up after the chain’s owner Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. pushed back the May 16 deadline to later in the week, the sources said.
A deal would fit in well with the Issas’ empire-building ambitions. In recent years, they’ve gone on an acquisition spree that’s turned their main company EG Group into a global gas station and convenience store colossus. They’ve snapped up UK supermarket operator Asda Group Ltd and the Leon chain of fast casual restaurants.
The emergence of Ambani promises to keep the race competitive. Apollo is known to be wary of overpaying on deals, which has led it to lose auctions for British companies like Asda and packaging firm RPC Group Plc. Teaming up with India’s second-richest person could give it firepower.
One outstanding question is how close Walgreens will be able to get to its asking price of 7 billion pounds . Bidders had pegged its worth around 5 billion pounds, though it’s possible they will boost their proposals following due diligence, the people said. Bloomberg