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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 October 2005, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Boots set for merger with rival
Boots store
Boots chemists have been facing competition from supermarkets
Retail giant Boots is set to merge with one of its biggest rivals, in a bid to form Britain's largest pharmacy chain.

Talks are under way to finalise a 7bn deal with Alliance UniChem, expected to be announced on Monday.

The merged group would have about 2,200 stores, and it is said the deal would help them compete against price competition from the supermarkets.

A BBC correspondent said all the stores were expected to be rebranded as Boots and predicted few job losses.

"Alliance UniChem stores tend to be smaller than Boots, so there may not be much of an overlap, which may mean that most stores would remain open," business correspondent Patrick Bartlett said.

Alliance UniChem, which has its UK base in Chessington, Surrey, is the third largest pharmacy network in Europe and has outlets in Norway, the Netherlands and Italy.

Patrick Bartlett said rebranding Alliance UniChem stores as Boots would give Boots a presence on the continent.

But he stressed nothing had been finalised: "It's not even a done deal, the ink isn't dry on the paper yet."

Over-the-counter

Meanwhile, it was reported this week that six bidders had submitted offers for the over-the-counter medicines division of Boots.

Sale of the unit, which markets such well-known brands as Strepsils and Nurofen, is expected to net struggling Boots about 1.4bn ($2.47bn).

The firms said to have made final offers are led by the UK's GlaxoSmithKline and Reckitt Benckiser.

They are joined by foreign firms Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis.

Boots first announced the planned sale of the unit back in April.

Reporting falling group sales on Thursday, it said the sale of the over-the-counter medicines division was progressing according to plan.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the merger might affect Boots



SEE ALSO:
Six firms 'targeting Boots unit'
30 Sep 05 |  Business
Tough trading continues at Boots
29 Sep 05 |  Business
Boots hit by 'difficult' trading
21 Jul 05 |  Business
Glaxo 'eyes Boots medicine unit'
25 May 05 |  Business
'Tough trading' hits Boots profit
19 May 05 |  Business
Boots alert 'did not force exit'
14 Mar 05 |  Business


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