Four more deals on way as Uniphar sells 11 of its Allcare pharmacies
Drug wholesaler Uniphar has completed the sale of 11 Allcare pharmacies and is in advanced stages to sell four more. The company which has annual sales of more than €1bn, announced last year that it was putting 20 of its pharmacies on the market.
In 2015, Ulster Bank wrote off debts of around €25m linked to several pharmacies as part of a deal with the Uniphar. The company created the Allcare brand three years ago and also operates the Life pharmacy franchise.
Ger Rabbette, chief executive of Uniphar told the Sunday Independent: "We've completed the sales of 11 Allcare stores back to the independent pharmacy community, and there are four more deals at an advanced stage.
"As a wholesaler, we think it's important not to compete with our customers - retail pharmacists in Ireland are facing aggressive competition from the large multiples and especially from the big international pharmacy chains.
"We don't think they should have to contend with their wholesaler owning the pharmacy down the street as well," he said.
Its main competitor is US giant McKesson, which also owns the Lloyds chain of pharmacies.
Market sources said that the total price achieved for the 15 pharmacies would be close to €20m and that pharmacy prices had recovered somewhat, despite significant changes to state drug payment schemes and a fall in the retail market generally.
Uniphar, which is majority-owned by independent pharmacists, has been eyeing a flotation in recent years.
However, the sector faces challenges. Rabbette said that the pharmaceutical wholesale business was difficult and that margins are low.
"But it's a key part of the national health infrastructure and makes sure that patients around the country can get the medicines they need when they need them."
He said that growth opportunities for Uniphar were in its Manufacturer Services division.
"We have already seen significant progress in the businesses such as Star, PharmaSource and Point of Care that provide outsourced or specialist services to pharmaceutical manufacturers in the UK and Ireland.
"The group has ambitious plans to grow the Manufacturer Services division and leverage our strong UK/Ireland market position to build a substantial EU business."
The company controls about 50pc of the Irish drugs wholesale market.
Sunday Indo Business