June 20 - The deal between U.S. drugstore Walgreen and Britain's Boots will create the world's biggest buyer of prescription drugs at a time of economic gloom in Europe. Hayley Platt reports.
There's one on almost every high street in Britain - and Boots the chemist, as it's known, is the marketleader in pharmacy-led health and beauty retailing in Europe. It's also one of the oldest. John Boot opened his first store in Nottingham in 1849 selling herbal remedies. 84 years later the 1000th Boots store was opened. The stats these days are even more impressive It has 3,300 stores in 11 countries and employs 116,000 people. They dispenses 260 million items every year. And Boots has just opened it's 200th store in Thailand with expansion planned in China too. That, says Bryan Roberts from Kantar Retail, is part of the attraction, despite the difficult economic conditions in Europe. SOUNDBITE: Bryan Roberts, Retail Insights Director, Kantar Retail, saying (English): "What is does give them is obviously a very strong footprint in Europe but importantly a footprint in important emerging markets like Turkey, like China and also in Thailand so Boots gives them a toehold into quite a broad geographical spread." Boots is also the largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in Europe. The deal with Walgreen will create the world's biggest buyer of prescription drugs. SOUNDBITE: Bryan Roberts, Retail Insights Director, Kantar Retail, saying (English): "As a combined group I think what they''ll be looking to achieve is much greater buying power in terms of pharmaceuticals but also in terms of the none retail goods so the systems or the products they use to run their businesses. They've identified 7 billion in terms of none resaleable products they can achieve economies on. But I think they can both learn from each other." The deal took many analysts by surprise. Walgreen has never made international expansion a priority. And the 3.5 billion dollars of debt it's taking on is worrying investors. But Boots and Walgreen say the growth potential is huge and both companies say they have no plans for job cuts. Hayley Platt, Reuters