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Boots boosts profits, offloads workers

ALLIANCE Boots, Britain's biggest pharmacy chain, posted an 11.6 percent rise in full-year profit and said it had performed well in its new financial year, defying a recession that hit rivals.

But the group, which employs over 110,000 people worldwide, said yesterday that a restructuring of its pharmaceutical wholesale division would result in about 1,500 job losses.

Alliance Boots also said it was keeping a close eye on Phoenix, the German drug wholesaler owned by the family of Adolf Merckle, the German industrialist who committed suicide in January.

"We just continue to monitor developments there as they're a key competitor of ours in a number of markets in which we operate," said Finance Director George Fairweather.

Executive Chairman Stefano Pessina has previously expressed an interest in bidding for Phoenix, which supplies over 40,000 pharmacies in Europe, should the Merckle family want to sell.

Alliance Boots made a trading profit of 953 million pounds (US$1.45 billion) for the year to March 31, on a 15.5 percent rise in revenue to 20.5 billion pounds.

After finance costs of 705 million pounds, relating to the group's 11 billion pounds buyout in 2007 by Pessina and private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, profit was 101 million pounds.

Revenue increased 4.4 percent in the health and beauty retail division, which operates over 3,200 outlets in nine countries.

It was up 17.8 percent in the pharmaceutical wholesale division, which serves over 135,000 pharmacies, doctors, health centers and hospitals in 15 countries.


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