Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani plans bid for UK retailer Boots

Shoppers pass by a Boots pharmacy in London.

Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani is planning a takeover bid for the UK high street chain Boots. Mr Ambani is the biggest shareholder and chairman of retail-to-energy group Reliance Industries.

Mumbai-based Reliance is working on the potential bid with US buyout firm Apollo Global Management. Earlier this year, the Walgreen Boots Alliance announced a review of the Boots business and reportedly put the company up for sale.

The deal would see Boots expand into India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East as well as growing the business in the UK. Under the plan, Reliance and Apollo would own stakes in Boots, although it was not clear whether they would be equal partners in the business.

Boots, which has more than 2,200 pharmacies, health and beauty stores in the UK could be valued at as much as £6bn ($7.5bn), according to the Financial Times, which first reported the story.

Mukesh Ambani.
Mukesh Ambani

Mr Ambani is the eighth richest person in the world. The 65-year-old is also the second richest person in Asia, with an estimated net worth of more than $100bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

His late father Dhirubhai Ambani founded a textile manufacturer that would eventually become Reliance Industries. It is now one of India’s largest conglomerates, with businesses including petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.

Mr Ambani currently owns more than 49% of Reliance Industries. The Ambani family already own assets in the UK worth tens of millions of pounds.

In 2019, Reliance Brands Limited, which is owned by Mr Ambani, bought the toy retailer Hamleys for an undisclosed sum. Last year, Reliance Industries bought the historic British country club Stoke Park for £57m.

The future of the 173-year-old Boots business has been in question for months.

In January, its US-based owner, the Walgreen Boots Alliance said it had started a strategic review of the retailer “in line with its recently announced priorities and strategic direction that include a greater focus on US healthcare”.

“Further announcements will be made in due course, after the right decision has been reached for Boots’ future and for all stakeholders,” the company said. The owners of UK supermarket group Asda – brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa and private equity firm TDR Capital – have also reportedly made an initial bid for Boots.

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