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Indian’s second richest man joins race to buy Boots

I

ndia’s second richest man has entered the bidding war for Boots, the UK’s biggest High Street pharmacist.

Mukesh Ambani is the biggest shareholder and chairman of retail-to-energy group Reliance Industries, which the Financial Times revealed is working on a bid for Boots in partnership with US investor Apollo Global Management.

65-year-old Ambani is the eighth richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of more than $100 billion (£79.7 million). He is the son of the founder of Reliance Industries.

US company Walgreen Boots Alliance, which owns Boots, has put the pharmacist up for sale as it shifts its focus to the North American market. It is seeking final bids in the coming weeks.

Other suitors said to be interested include private equity groups Advent, Carlyle and KKR, which owned the retailer before selling to Walgreens.

TDR Capital, which financed the takeover of Asda, and CD&R, which snapped up Morrisons last year, are also said to have shown interest.

One of the main stumbling blocks for any potential investor will be to find way of dealing with Boots’ £8 billion pension scheme, which is one of the largest private retirement schemes in the UK.

Boots has more than 2200 locations in the UK and 51,000 staff. Goldman Sachs is advising on a potential sale.

Walgreens Boots Alliance has said an IPO could still be tabled for the health and beauty retailer if takeover plans fall through.

The company’s chief operating officer, Ornella Barra has previously said that floating the chain as a standalone firm “is not off the table” if a suitable bid is not presented.

Any sale is likely to be one of the biggest takeover deals in Britain this year.

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