Boots owner explores sale of UK beauty retailer
The owner of giant UK beauty and health chain Boots is reportedly thinking of selling the business, five years after it took full control of the firm.
A sale would be among a number of strategic moves currently being considered by Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), a Sky News report said, and it has already lined up advisers from Goldman Sachs to fully explore its options.
While the Boots chain, which dates back to the 19th century, could potentially be sold outright, there’s also talk that a separate stock exchange listing could be considered for the firm.
It’s expected that private equity groups would be interested in buying it, as they’ve been keen on UK assets generally in the past year. Other giant retail businesses to have been sold to retail equity this year include major supermarkets Asda and Morrisons, although a Boots sales could dwarf those deals in terms of its overall size.
Analysts have speculated that Boots could potentially be worth £10 billion or more given its chain of 2,200 stores and huge online business. It also has the UK licence for Mothercare. It employs around 55,000 people.
Boots does have a history with the stock exchange having been listed in the UK until 2007 when Stefano Pessina and private equity group KKR took it private. US-based Walgreens acquired it last decade with Pessina in charge of the expanded group.
Under current CEO Roz Brewer, WBA is believed to be focusing more heavily on North America and on healthcare.
Boots has struggled in recent years with criticism of the way the business has been run including stores that have suffered from underinvestment.
That said, Boots has seen something of a recovery of late and remains one of the biggest names in UK beauty retail. It also has a massive loyalty scheme with 14 million members that keeps customers coming back, and a powerful position in UK pharmacy services.
Boots MD Sebastian James has also been rationalising the business since taking over in 2018 with around 200 store closures and investment in new premium beauty halls.
Sources have stressed that the eventual outcome could be that the business isn’t sold and in a statement issued to Sky News, the company said: “Walgreens Boots Alliance does not comment on market speculation and Boots is an important part of the group. As underlined during the last WBA investor conference, the group continues to be very pleased with the performance of Boots and the International division as a whole.”
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