LONDON — A potential winner has emerged in the battle for Alliance Boots.

AB Acquisitions, the takeover vehicle created by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Stefano Pessina, said Tuesday it had raised its offer for and increased its stake in Alliance Boots. The news caused the consortium comprising Terra Firma, Wellcome Trust and HBOS to bow out of the bidding war for the U.K. pharmacy retailer and pharmaceuticals wholesaler, which began last week.

KKR said Tuesday in a regulatory statement that AB Acquisitions has upped its per-share offer in Alliance Boots to 11.39 pounds, or $22.8 at current exchange. It also has secured a 28.7 percent stake in the company. (Pessina, Alliance Boots' executive deputy chairman and largest shareholder, came to the table with a 15 percent stake and the consortium has amassed an additional 13.6 percent share since March 9.)

On Friday, AB Acquisitions managed to gain the backing of Boots' board for its takeover bid with an offer of 10.90 pounds, or $21.83, per share, but interest from the rival Terra Firma-led consortium drove up the price.

"Boots is a critically important national institution, and we are naturally disappointed not to be able to execute the bold vision we had for the company," Terra Firma said in a regulatory announcement. "However, we are pleased that the shareholders of Alliance Boots have received a significantly higher price due to our interest."

Alliance Boots said in a regulatory statement Tuesday that its board considers the revised offer "to be fair and reasonable and intends to recommend that Alliance Boots shareholders vote in favor of the transaction."

"I will be surprised if [KKR and Pessina] don't get control," said one London-based analyst speaking on condition of anonymity.

KKR and Pessina's takeover bid has stirred controversy since it was announced in March, because Pessina had been instrumental in the formation of Alliance Boots less than a year ago, when Alliance UniChem merged with Boots Group.

Alliance Boots, which owns the Boots the Chemists health and beauty chain, has 3,100 retail outlets and operates its pharmaceutical wholesaling business in 14 countries. — Brid Costello

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