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Sunday, 8 October, 2000, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Boots moves out-of-town

UK chemist chain Boots has denied reports that it will close 250 of its 1,450 stores, or that it will merge with supermarket chain Sainsbury's.

A spokesman for the company confirmed only that "a few dozen" Boots stores in town centres would be closed, a move that could cost hundreds of employees their job,

However, Boots insists that the redundancies will be offset by plans to open 30 large stores during the next six months. The outlets - to be located at the edge of towns - are expected to employ more than 1,000 people.

The spokesman said he expected the company to be "a net creator of jobs".

A report in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper had suggested that Boots wanted to close or sell up to 250 shops and focus on larger retail outlets and its plans for international expansion.

A merger with Sainsbury's?

Boots also denied a suggestion in the Sunday Telegraph that the company had been in merger talks with Sainsbury's, the second-largest supermarket chain in the UK.

According to the newspaper, both firms had broken off their merger talks several weeks ago.

Had the plan gone ahead, it would have created a 12bn food and healthcare retailer.

Sir Peter Davis, the new chief executive of Sainsbury's, is a former director of Boots.

Sainsbury's has steadily lost market share in recent years.

It has long been overtaken by its old rival Tesco, and is under constant pressure from Asda, now owned by the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart.

But Boots said it was "not in merger talks with Sainsbury and it is not planning any mergers", while Sainsbury's officials called the report "purely speculative".

Boots has been repeatedly the focus of take-over speculation, and Wal-Mart is one of the rumoured suitors.

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