US drug store giant Walgreens in £10bn Boots takeover

 

The largest pharmacy chain in the United States swooped on high
street chemist Boots today as part of a shock £10 billion takeover deal.

Walgreens, which also trades as Duane Reade, will initially acquire 45% of Alliance Boots, a business that includes a major European pharmaceutical wholesale arm, with an option to snap up the rest by 2015.

The pair hope their partnership will create the industry's first "global player" with 11,000 stores in 12 countries and serving more than 170,000 pharmacies and health centres in 21 countries.

It means that brands such as No7 and Botanics will be sold in nearly 8,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade stores in the US, while Walgreens products will be introduced to Boots stores.

Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina, who took the Nottingham-based business private in 2007 following an £11.1 billion deal in conjunction with private equity firm KKR, said the two businesses were a natural fit.

Asked whether the Boots brand would survive, he said: "How could I do a deal killing Boots? I could never have done this, I have been at Boots for years and years.

"I have done a deal to make Boots more visible, more international, to create new markets for Boots and for Nottingham. I am very excited - I have always believed our industry needed a global player.

"The UK will become the centre to develop and manufacture new products for a fantastic market like the American market. New York is the window of the world, together with London."

Gregory Wasson, president and chief executive of Walgreens, said the development team at Nottingham was one of the most exciting aspects of the tie-up, and he and his wife had been personally impressed by the No7 range. He claimed the deal would bring together two "iconic brands".

Alliance Boots operates 2,500 stores and employs 75,000 staff in the UK.

There are no plans for job cuts because the two business complement one another, with Walgreens the dominant player in the US, similar to Boots in the UK.

The deal will see Walgreens pay four billion US dollars (£2.5 billion) in cash and shares currently worth 2.7 billion US dollars (£1.7 billion).

In three years, it has the option to buy the rest of the company for another 9.5 billion US dollars (£6 billion) in cash and shares at current prices, bringing a total price of 16.2 billion US dollars (£10.3 billion) and will also take on the company's debt. Mr Pessina will take an 8% stake in Walgreens.

Alliance Boots traces its roots back to 1849 when John Boot opened his first store selling herbal remedies in Goose Gate, Nottingham. It opened its 1,000th store in 1933 followed by the No7 cosmetics range two years later.

Boots Group merged with Alliance UniChem to form Alliance Boots in 2006 before it was taken private in Europe's largest leveraged buyout a year later.

Walgreens, which was founded over a century ago, filed one in five retail prescriptions in the US last year and employs nearly a quarter of a million staff.

PA

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