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McKesson Canada to acquire Uniprix

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Shareholders slated to vote on agreement next month

ST. LAURENT, Quebec — McKesson Canada has reached an agreement to buy Quebec drug chain Uniprix.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The companies said Wednesday that, under the agreement, McKesson Canada would acquire all outstanding shares of Uniprix, pending approval by shareholders and the Competition Bureau of Canada, as well as other closing conditions.

Uniprix's Philippe Duval_McKesson Canada's Paula Keays,

Uniprix’s Philippe Duval and McKesson Canada’s Paula Keays

Plans call for shareholders to receive the deal proposal in the middle of this month, with a shareholder vote slated for May 16.

Uniprix, which operates under a franchise model, has a retail network of more than 330 pharmacies across Quebec under the banners Uniprix, Uniprix Clinique and Uniprix Santé.

McKesson Canada and Uniprix said the individual pharmacies will remain independently owned following the acquisition.

“Today’s announcement is very exciting for both McKesson Canada and Uniprix. Our two companies are coming together to help build the future of Uniprix’s independent pharmacists,” McKesson Canada president Paula Keays said in a statement.

“The acquisition will allow independent pharmacies to remain competitive in an increasingly changing industry,” Keays added. “For McKesson Canada, this is a strategic investment that enhances our commitment to Quebec.”

McKesson Canada had previously tried to acquire Uniprix. In January 2009, McKesson Canada made a bid to buy Uniprix that was favored by the drug chain’s board but rejected by the shareholder owners operating Uniprix’s pharmacies. However, McKesson Canada retained its role as distributor for the chain.

The 2009 acquisition proposal by McKesson Canada was made under then-president Domenic Pilla, who left the company in late 2011 but returned as chief executive officer early this year.

Uniprix and McKesson Canada said the acquisition deal will enhance operations for independent pharmacy owners, drug distribution clients and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

McKesson Canada has a 100-year history in Quebec and its Canadian head office is in Montreal. Our success is a shared success, as today’s announcement secures a bright future for Uniprix owners who will benefit from McKesson Canada’s best-in-class supply chain network, designed to ensure patient safety, reduce costs, increase operational efficiency and protect the autonomy of independent pharmacy owners,” stated Uniprix president and CEO Philippe Duval, who has served as the drug chain’s chief executive since February 2015.

With Uniprix’s pharmacies, McKesson Canada will become the largest drug store operator in Quebec, surpassing the Jean Coutu Group, whose retail network includes 417 stores in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario.

The purchase of Uniprix marks the second large chain drug acquisition by McKesson Canada over the past year. In late December, McKesson Canada closed a $2.1 billion (U.S.) deal to buy Rexall Health. Pilla was named McKesson Canada CEO when the completion of the Rexall acquisition was announced.

Including Rexall’s approximately 450 pharmacies, McKesson Canada currently has about 2,170 pharmacy locations across Canada, making it the country’s largest drug store operator, followed by Shoppers Drug Mart, part of Loblaw Cos., with 1,326 stores.


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