Walgreens in bid to attract UK investors

AMERICAN pharmacy Walgreens will kick off a series of high-level meetings with UK investors today in a bid to increase institutional interest in the US-listed company, following its £4.3bn initial takeover deal with Alliance Boots.

Chief executive Gregory Wasson has arrived in the country to sound out institutional investors, such as large UK pension funds, to explore options them investing in the group through its US market listings.

Last week’s tie-up – which saw Walgreens set to acquire a 45 per cent stake in the owner of the famous high street chemist, with an option to take the other 55 per cent after three years – led to speculation in the press yesterday the firm would seek a London stock market float.

However a person close to the deal ruled out Walgreens’ appearance on the FTSE 100 anytime soon and downplayed a secondary listing for the firm.

Instead, Walgreens will meet with asset managers and other investors this week to explore the options for them investing money into the firm through its existing US listing.

“A primary listing for Walgreens in London is not going to happen. If there is a full merger after three years then lots of things will be considered but a secondary listing is not top of the list. It is an option, but it’s not on the cards,” said the source.

Walgreens is listed on the NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange, and Chicago Stock Exchange.

Alliance Boots was listed on the FTSE 100 until 2007 when private equity firm KKR and Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina spent £11.1bn to take the firm off the stock markets.

Many had thought that KKR and Pessina had overpaid for the business but they were proved wrong last week when Walgreens announced its deal. Pessina will join the Walgreens board as will KKR director Dominic Murphy.

Last week KKR and Pessina agreed to sell the business to Walgreens for an initial $6.7bn (£4.3bn).

The deal will see the creation of the largest global pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution network in the world.