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 Walgreens 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.

The Walgreens Boots Alliance declined to comment while Reliance did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

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 Walgreens 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.

Mukesh Ambani has been increasing his footprint in the retail space by projecting Reliance Industries as a giant in the sector.

Its retail ambitions run across categories from luxury fashion to electronics and groceries.

The company operates India’s fastest growing and most profitable retail business with over 12,000 stores across India.

Mr Ambani has also been raking in investments, looking to expand his e-commerce operations to compete against the likes of Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon.

In September 2020 alone, Reliance Retail brought in foreign investments worth nearly $3.5bn.

Some of the biggest investments came from the likes of Google and Facebook, which helped Mr Ambani integrate his telecoms and online retail businesses.

And his ambitions have not been restricted to India as he eyes business around the world, like the iconic toy shop Hamleys – which he bought in 2019.

What Reliance has been missing, say analysts, is a piece of the pharmacy and wellness sector – and that is what it plans to achieve through a tie-up with Boots.

India has recently seen a rise in online pharmacy retailers and this potential deal would enable Reliance to fast-track its entry into the sector.

But as big online retailers like Walmart and Amazon sell everything, retailers offering more specific ranges have struggled to get a foothold in the massive Indian market.

It will also be interesting to see how Reliance positions itself in the pharmacy and wellness business abroad.

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