It's kicking off in the battle for Boots

'Trust Boots' goes the slogan. Now that the chemist has become the centre of a £10bn-plus private equity bidding war, a lot of people are going to find that much more difficult to do. After all, private equity hardly wins praise for its openness, and the target here is a 158-year-old staple of the high street.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Still, the bidding makes for a cracking spectator sport. This morning, the Boots board accepted a bid of £10.90 per share from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Boots' deputy chairman Stefano Pessina. This would have put Boots at worth £10.6bn - already a European record for a private equity acquisition.

But with the sound of the tills still ringing, that bid was quickly trumped by the group including the Wellcome Trust, HBOS and Guy Hands' Terra Firma, who marched in with an offer £11.15 per share. The cat now smiles out at us from the middle of a load of pigeons.

It's thrilling stuff. Pessina, who already owns 15% of the shares, could make a staggering £1bn in the next five years out of the deal. Hands, meanwhile, has set out his stall and said that even Pessina isn't irreplaceable - even though Pessina owns 15% of shares and has a partner on the Boots board.

But what about further down the chain? The fears of Boots' 100,000-plus staff will have been stoked by recent bad publicity for private equity, which has centred on its tendency towards job cuts and fat pay packets for the top brass. The issue of trust could become key for Boots once the dust settles.

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