McKesson Canada reaches deal to buy Uniprix

MONTREAL — After a failed bid in 2009, McKesson Canada has reached a deal to acquire Groupe Uniprix’s 330 pharmacies.

The value of the transaction announced Wednesday was not made public.

The agreement must still be ratified by Uniprix’s pharmacy owners at a May 16 vote as well as by the Competition Bureau of Canada.

Montreal-based McKesson Canada, a subsidiary of U.S.-based McKesson, already owns 275 Proxim pharmacies. If the acquisition goes through, it will have more outlets in Quebec than Groupe Jean Coutu (TSX:PJC.CA), which has 382.

Uniprix chief executive officer Philippe Duval said the chain, which has estimated annual sales of just more than $1.6 billion, is not in a precarious financial situation.

The transaction, he noted, is a matter of “long-term profitability” and will allow Uniprix to benefit from McKesson’s expertise in various areas, including the development of applications.

The Uniprix pharmacies will be run independently, the company will keep its Montreal head office and there will be no job cuts, said McKesson Canada president Paula Keays.

“We will continue to operate Uniprix the same way,” she said.

“It’s an important trademark for us.”

McKesson withdrew an offer for Uniprix in 2009 after Uniprix’s independent pharmacists voted against the deal.

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