Outlook: Seton Scholl

Outlook: Seton Scholl

STUART WALLIS should arm all his salesmen with the joke about the man who walks into a chemist's and asks for odour eaters, incontinence pants and hair lice shampoo before pausing to add: "Oh and give me a packet of three as well, I'm feeling lucky tonight."

After yesterday's pounds 1.4bn merger of Seton Scholl and London International Group, you will be able to buy all the above products from one supplier. Not all the 7,500 employees of the combined business are likely to see the joke.

At least five per cent of them will be surplus to requirements once the merger implementation teams get into full swing, and it could prove a lot more if the Seton chairman decides to follow the example of LIG and withdraw from UK manufacturing in favour of low-cost Far Eastern sites.

It is hard to think about veruca treatment, surgical harnesses and fruit- flavoured condoms without laughing, but there is no denying they are big business. Seton has only just finished consuming Scholl. After slipping LIG into its back pocket, it will have a international healthcare group with sales of pounds 650m a year.

Yesterday's announcement was accomanpanied by all the usual management speak about manufacturing synergies and leveraging of sales, and in their more excitable moments the Seton management dreams of cost savings worth pounds 25m a year.

On a sales base twenty times the size, that ought to be achievable, although there is no reason why a chemist should want to buy the latest corn plaster treatment simply because the latest Durex polyeurethane condom comes from the same supplier. Once the cost