According to The Sunday Times, the Boots owner snapped up the dividends despite taking “hundreds of millions” of pounds of government support during the pandemic.
Boots’ UK-based parent company, Superior Holdings, paid out $4.1bn (£3.3bn) in dividends to Walgreens last year and a $909.6m (£740m) dividend the year before that.
Its other UK-based holding company, WBA Financial, is said to have paid out a further $353m (£288m) dividend to Walgreens last year.
Despite this, Boots received £36m in furlough payments, £11m in PPE grants and £55m in business rates relief during the pandemic, The Times reported.
In addition, advisory firm Altus estimated that its annual business rates bill tops £149m, “implying that the total relief eventually received was considerably higher”.
A Walgreens spokesperson told the Times that the dividends had not come “directly or indirectly” from Boots UK, however.
The news coincides with the supposed deadline for final bids for Boots, which Sky News reported to be today (16 May).
Walgreens Boots Alliance reportedly issued the deadline as it looks to offload the business as economic issues threaten its valuation, with the price tag currently standing at up to £7bn.
Potential suitors include Asda, owned by Issa Brothers and TDR Capital. In addition, US buyout firm Apollo Global Management and Reliance Industries reportedly joined forces to plan a joint bid for the pharmacy chain, according to the Financial Times.
Reliance is owned by India’s second-richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and if the bid is successful, Boots will expand its footprint into India, south-east Asia and the Middle East.