Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Boots-UniChem Merger Nod Surprise

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Boots-UniChem Merger Nod Surprise

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK GOODWAY

BOOTS and Alliance UniChem were given the green light for their [pounds sterling]7.6 billion merger in a surprise decision by the Office of Fair Trading today.

And the OFT declared that it was the Government, not mergers, that restricts competition among Britain's High Street pharmacies.

The shock clearance of the deal means Boots and Alliance UniChem can move rapidly to complete a deal agreed four months ago. It could now be consummated in the summer rather than at the end of the year, or even next year if a Competition Commission inquiry had been ordered.

The combined Alliance Boots will own 2600 stores across Britain, control 40% of the wholesale drugs market and own 19% of pharmacies. But the OFT said it would not refer the deal so long as Boots agreed to sell off shops in 100 places where it had identified local competition problems.

OFT chief executive John Fingleton said: "This is a market in which government regulations restrict competition by imposing barriers to new market entrants. …

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