Boots take-over bid under pressure

By Louise Prance

- Last updated on GMT

The much-hyped Alliance Boots take-over by private equity firm
Kohlburg Kravis Roberts (KKR) could be in jeopardy as investors
fail to come forward to buy out €9bn ($18.5bn) worth of debt that
comes hand in hand with the acquisition.

The debt was first offered to investors three weeks ago, who were given Friday last week as the deadline for commitment. However, none have come forward thus far. According to press reports investors interested in the deal are seeking higher interest rates in line with risk aversion strategies, while also seeking stricter covenants to protect creditors. However, despite the bank now considering these options the delay in the financial closure of Europe's biggest buyout deal is having a negative ripple affect for many major deals and buy-outs worldwide. ``If the Boots acquistion doesn't go through, the market will be difficult for large-scale LBOs the rest of the year, lenders don't want to give any commitment in this environment.''​Sonia Van Dorp, credit analyst at Societe Generale SA in Paris told Bloomsburg.com. The news will come as a blow to KKR who were given the go ahead by the European Commission last month, which paved the way for one of the biggest European acquisitions by a private equity firm. Following the essential EC clearance, the total take-over bid o£11.1bn for the UK's leading health and beauty store highlights the importance the company holds within the personal care industry. In a bid to fend off competitors, KKR and executive chairman Stefano Pessina have agreed to pay £418m to the Boots Pension Scheme over the coming ten years. The battle to obtain the established chain of stores has been heated, with rival investors, such as private equity firm Terra Firm and medical charity, The Wellcome Trust, offering similar amounts - news that sent share prices in the company soaring. Following a £7bn merger with chemist chain Alliance Chem last year, the Boots chain has become a highly valuable company, with over 2,600 stores in the UK and now having over 400 overseas outlets, including Italy and Thailand. Indeed, the company has also made strong ties in the US, retailing many of its own brand cosmetic in the well-known Target department stores, and also expanding the No7 range across stores in Canada only last month. However, industry concerns over the moral agenda behind the private equity firm's take over proposal of the 150-year-old UK company have been raised. KKR is said to cite growth, not asset stripping as its main objective, but press reports claim that there are concerns surrounding job security and store closures amongst the work force. Pessina has tackled this by voicing his concerns that the company is being exposed to the media interference, and, through going private, will escape the public spotlight. Instead he wants to 'accelerate the development of Alliance Boots in order to meet the challenges and opportunities that are faced and to build a successful global pharmacy-led healthcare and beauty group'. However, with Pessina, 65, expected to net over £1bn from the proposed acquisition before his 70th​ birthday, industry observers say it would be one of the fastest billion ever made by a private individual. KKR previously applied for a take-over in March, but was rejected because the offer was too low.

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