Pharmacy ownership scheme collapses
THE Independent Pharmacy Ownership Scheme, founded to enable individual pharmacists to own their business, has collapsed, after shops struggled with the economic crisis and the HSE's decision to slash their margins.
Known as IPOS, the scheme includes four funds which have minority stakes in almost 150 Irish pharmacies. The funds are backed by several investors, including pharmacists themselves and drug distributor Uniphar.
A spokesman for IPOS last night confirmed that KPMG insolvency specialist Kieran Wallace would be installed as liquidator of all four funds at a creditors' meeting on February 17.
Mr Wallace will be charged with unwinding IPOS's stakes in the 150 pharmacies, either by selling the shares back to the resident pharmacists or to third parties.
The spokesman said the decision to liquidate had been made because a number of pharmacies were "underperforming". These businesses are understood to have struggled to pay their loans and dividends, putting the overall fund under strain.
IPOS is believed to have been in recent negotiations with its lenders and backers in a bid to restructure its operations.
A spokeswoman for the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) last night described the HSE's cuts as a "major contributing factor" to IPOS's demise. "Over the coming weeks, the IPU will be focusing on supporting the pharmacists who are either employed in or purchasing these pharmacies to ensure that their interests are fully considered by the liquidator," she added.
Uniphar took a write-down of €98m on the value of its IPOS pharmacy investments in 2008. A spokesman for the drug distribution giant last night said Uniphar believed the write-down it had already taken is "sufficient", even in light of the funds' impending liquidation.