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Boots-Alliance Unichem EGM dates set as merger reaches final stages

Boots,, the largest pharmacy and personal care retailer in the UK, has significant operations worldwide, and wants to merge with the European-wide retailer and distributor of pharmaceutical and healthcare products in an effort to increase its presence throughout Europe.

The fourth of July has been set as the dates for the EGM of both Boots (10am) and Alliance Unichem (10:45 am) when shareholders for both companies will be able to vote on the resolutions required to approve and implement the merger.

Early last month Boots released a statement saying that both boards expect that all outstanding pre-conditions and conditions will be satisfied to enable the merger to become effective on 31 July 2006.

In recent years Boots has been doing well to keep its head above water in an overheated and highly competitive market - a problem that is reflected throughout the Western European region.

The company reported that its annual sales for the year ending in December were up 1.6 per cent to reach 5.44bn, while sales for the most recent quarter grew by 3.3 per cent, representing a strong performance during the retailer's all-important Christmas trading period.

The company's beauty division currently accounts for around 40 per cent of its sales, with the healthcare division accounting for around 45 per cent.

Boots has enjoyed some success from its increased move towards premium brands, having signed a number of new contracts with brands representing this category.

Toiletries, however, remain one of the biggest areas of challenge for the company, as European-wide, the market remains saturated and extremely competitive, with aggressive discounting driving margins constantly downwards.