Asia Briefing: Boots and Walgreen players in consolidating pharma retail market


Also taking note of the growing Chinese domestic consumption market are the pharmacy giants Alliance Boots and the US firm Walgreen, which recently bought 12 per cent of Nanjing Pharmaceutical Company.

Nanjing is the fifth-largest drug wholesaler in China with a network of nearly 350 pharmacies and the purchase price was more than €67 million.

“This agreement obviously highlights our long-lasting commitment to China and to the Chinese market,” Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina said in Nanjing.

“China has already become one of the major economic players in the world and its market is huge.”

Between them, Boots and Walgreen dominate the US and European markets, and analysts are expecting a strong rise in demand for pharma in China – by an average of 17.9 per cent a year in 2013-17 in nominal local-currency terms, according to forecasts by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Demand for Boots toiletries and consumer healthcare products is expected to be almost as strong, at around 12 per cent a year, according to a recent report from the EIU in combination with Mintel.

So a strong market is in the offing then, particularly as China’s fragmented pharmacy market is simultaneously consolidating, and at a quick pace.

“The government wants the top 100 companies to account for 50 per cent of total pharmaceutical sales by 2015, with the 10 biggest wholesalers carrying out 95 per cent of drug distribution,” said Ana Nicholls, EIU healthcare analyst.

Jointown, one of the major drug distributors, has already been snapping up smaller rivals and should take the lead in this consolidation.

“If Boots/ Walgreen manage to find the right partners, then international drug producers in China are likely to welcome the opportunity to use a large-scale reputable distributor they are familiar with from other markets,” she said.