Boots (UK)

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Boots is one of the UK's best known retailers, dispensing prescription and over-the-counter medicines as well as a wide range of cosmetics, personal care products and low-cost appliances. However, diversification into a broader selection of health services and beauty treatments from the late 1990s onwards proved less successful. In its main domestic market, the company was forced to wrestle with a slump in performance generated by fierce competition from supermarket retailers such as Tesco, while expansion into international markets was patchy at best. After several difficult years, Boots' position strengthened considerably in 2005 following a takeover by European drug wholesaler and pharmacy operator Alliance UniChem. In 2007, Alliance's former chairman successfully took the merged group private, backed by private equity investment. Strong and steady growth since then has resulted in record profits each year since 2010. In 2012, US pharmacy giant Walgreens acquired a 45% shareholding in the group, and bought out the remaining shares at the very end of 2014, prompting a full merger of the two groups to create Walgreens Boots Alliance (see separate profile).

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Brands

Boots The Chemist Boots Advantage
Boots Opticians Boots Beauty
Alliance Healthcare UniChem
Alliance Sante Soltan
Botanics No 7

Parent

Walgreen Boots Alliance

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Jun 2016: Simon Roberts, group EVP of pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance and local president of Boots in the UK, has resigned his role " to pursue new opportunities". The chain denied any connection to a Guardian newspaper investigation earlier this year. This alleged that Boots pharmacy managers had been encouraged to boost profits by offering medical health checks to customers who didn't need them (and even to other staff) in order to claim cash rebates from the National Health Service. Boots denied this was the case. Roberts' departure has prompted a full overhaul of group senior management, with EVPs Alex Gourlay and Ornella Barra elevated to co-COOs. Gourlay will continue to oversee the Walgreens and Boots chains, with Barra responsible for global wholesale and group corporate services. Boots' former marketing director Elizabeth Fagan was named as Roberts' effective successor, becoming managing director of Boots. Ken Murphy becomes EVP & group chief commercial officer.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Feb 2015: Open hostility broke out in the UK between Ed Miliband's Labour Party and business leaders over an interview in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper with Stefano Pessina, former executive chairman of Alliance Boots and now acting CEO of the mammoth Walgreens Boots Alliance. Pessina, who has overseen UK high street pharmacy giant Boots - one of the country's biggest employers - for the past 10 years, warned that a Labour government under Ed Miliband would be a "catastrophe". Labour's planned corporate reforms, Pessina said, were "not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end probably won't be helpful for them. If they act as they speak it will be a catastrophe". Yet rather than attempt to address growing concerns over Labour's seeming "anti-business" policies, a host of different Labour politicians immediately mounted what looked suspiciously like a coordinated personal attack on Pessina via news outlets and social media. Most of the attacks were to do with the fact that Pessina - who is Italian by birth - resides in Monaco rather than the UK. Said Miliband himself, "I don't think people in Britain are going to take kindly to being lectured by somebody who's avoiding his taxes on how they should be voting at the UK general election." Numerous business leaders, including recently retired Kingfisher CEO Sir Ian Cheshire, former M&S boss Lord Rose and Heathrow chairman Sir Nigel Rudd, were quick to rush to Pessina's defence. "Labour's attack this week on a major British business smacked of the destructive anti-business mood that went out of political fashion decades ago," said Rose. Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com, said "We should be concerned about the opinions of those who invest in the UK," he said. "Whether they are living here or not, they are important in a global economy." 

Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Jan 2015: Walgreens and Alliance Boots completed their merger on the last day on 2014 to create Walgreens Boots Alliance. The resulting business will continue to operate the three separate brands of Walgreens pharmacies in the US, Boots high street pharmacies in the UK (an a few other markets) and the Alliance Healthcare wholesale network. Pro forma consolidated sales for the merged group are around $110bn. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 7th Aug 2014: US pharmacy giant Walgreen has confirmed plans to take full control of its UK counterpart Alliance Boots earlier than expected. It will acquire the 55% of Boots it doesn't already own in February next year, at a cost of around £5bn in cash and shares. One unexpected turn is that it will not proceed with a corporate inversion to shift its financial base to Europe. That controversial loophole, in which US companies relocate to countries offering lower corporation taxes, is already under scrutiny by US regulators and is likely to be closed. Walgreen's CEO said the board had decided against such a move because of the likelihood of drawn-out negotiations with US regulators. However its eagerness to be a good corporate citizen didn't play well with shareholders, who had been looking forward to higher dividends. The newly created Walgreen Boots Alliance will continue to be headquartered in Chicago, with Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson at its head. Alliance Boots executive chairman and controlling shareholder Stefano Pessina will be its single largest shareholder with an 18% stake worth more than $10bn.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd May 2014: US pharmacy giant Walgreens is said to be weighing up a plan to reverse into its 45%-owned European partner Alliance Boots, in order to shift its tax base out of the US. Alliance Boots, which controls an extensive pharmaceutical wholesale network across Europe, as well as pharmacy retailer Boots, reported strong performance for its latest financial year to March. Net profits jumped by 31% to £971m on revenues up 4% to £23.4bn. The strongest performance came from wholesaling, with revenues up 4.8%, compared to 2.4% in health & beauty retail. Walgreens has an option to acquire the 55% stake in Alliance Boots it doesn't already own from February 2015. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Oct 2013: Elizabeth Fagan, marketing director of UK pharmacy & beauty retailer Boots, has been promoted to the role of marketing director, international health & beauty & brands, overseeing the group's wider footprint. Boots operates health & beauty retail operations in several international territories, and also markets its products in the US through controlling shareholder Walgreens. Andy Ferguson fills her former role as UK marketing director.

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