Consortium prepares bid for Boots division

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The Independent Online
THE MERCHANT bank Robert Fleming is putting together a consortium to bid for the pharmaceuticals division of Boots, the chemists. The price could be as high as pounds 600- pounds 700m.

The Nottingham company announced a review of the future of its pharmaceutical division nearly a year ago, but said yesterday all options remained open. These ranged from doing nothing to selling off the division.

A spokesman added: 'Whatever decision we reach will be based on the best interests of our staff and shareholders.'

Although there have been rumours of interest from Cyanamid of the US and Hafslund Nycomed of Norway, the Fleming consortium is the most concrete proposal to have emerged so far, though no offer has yet been made to Boots.

It is understood that Fleming is still sounding out potential investors in the consortium and is some way from putting a formal offer to the company.

City sources said the chairman lined up to head the consortium was likely to be John Jackson, a solicitor who is chairman of Ladbroke and a number of other public companies.

A consortium bid would be billed as a British solution for Boots that could bring substantial new investment to the pharmaceutical operations.

These contributed pounds 94.2m to Boots pre-tax profit of pounds 484m in its latest year. The high street chemist business accounts for two- thirds of Boots, but pharmaceuticals is the next largest division.

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