UniChem old guard lament Boots merger

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The Independent Online

The creation of a pharmacy giant was given the green light yesterday after investors in Boots and Alliance UniChem backed their plans to merge.

But small shareholders used the occasion to hit out at the new group's decision to jettison the Moss Pharmacy brand in the UK. They also voiced concern that independent chemists in the UK, which belong to Alliance UniChem's wholesale network, will get overlooked in the new company, which will have 2,600 retail outlets across Europe.

At Boots, 99.5 per cent backed the formation of Alliance Boots, with a similar level at Alliance UniChem.

That did not stop Susan Ramsdale, a former independent pharmacist and one of UniChem's old guard from its friendly society says, from voting against the deal on the grounds that the "ethics" of a large company might work against the interests of independent pharmacists.

"Big organisations distort competition. I'm concerned," Ms Ramsdale said.

Stefano Pessina, who will be deputy chairman of Alliance Boots and its biggest investor with 16 per cent of the shares, said independent chemists could "be assured" the group's wholesale and retail arms would remain separate. The Italian was speaking against the appropriate backdrop of a St George's flag and the motto "We are One" at Armourers' Hall in the City.

Shares in the two companies trade as one on 31 July.