One of the owners of high street chemist Boots says floating the chain as a standalone firm is not off the table if private equity firms do not cough up a suitable bid.
Ornella Barra, one half of the power couple at the heart of Boots-owner Walgreens Boots Alliance, said an IPO had been the preferred initial approach to spin off the chain but had been sidelined after interest from 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 Daily Mail.
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, chief operating officer of WBA and partner of the firm’s executive chairman Stefano Pessina, 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 after the firms in contention tabled first round bids this month.
In the running are the billionaire Issa brothers who own Asda, as well as buyout firms TDR Capital, Apollo and Sycamore Partners.
A consortium of CVC Capital and Bain Capital had been in pole position for a takeover but dropped out after reportedly baulking at the price expectations of WBA.
New York-based Apollo is currently lining up banks including Bank of America, Credit Suisse and Royal Bank of Canada to fund a £6bn bid for the firm, Sky News reported last week.
The sale of the firm will see the break up of WBA which was formed in 2014 when Walgreens acquired the 55 per cent stake in Alliance Boots that it did not already own, having taken a 45 per cent stake in the firm two years earlier.
The chain has weathered a difficult pandemic after being forced to shutter many of its stores, and a series of spats with landlords over delayed rent payments.