Friday, 16 March 2007

These Boots are made for privatising

How ironic that I publicise my beef against the flaky ABC pharmacy group when along comes the BIG financial story of the week.

Anyone who knows that I had a previous life as a pill-pusher will know that I have jaundiced and vocal views of many aspects of my first profession. My arrows of wrath are particularly directed at the retail sector, now known as the ‘community’ sector – that’s yer actual dear little local shops. And if you hadn’t noticed, the independent pharmacy, with its kindly white-coated pharmacist who has knowledge and time to help is more endangered than the polar bear. And why is that? Because the phalanx of cash-rich multiples, who I won’t deign to mention, just come along and buy up the NHS contract of the independent pharmacy and start to crunch numbers and targets for high-tech pharmacists to attain. The result is just a pleasant memory of a kindly white-coated pharmacist with knowledge and time to help.

Just 7 months ago two of these pharmacy giants, Alliance-Unichem and Boots, merged to form a multi-billion pound empire. The architect of that plan, Signor Pissonia, is now plotting with KKK, a private Equity group, to take this
fledgling behemoth into private hands.

So, on top of the £1.3bn Pissonia made from the previous merger he would now will make millions more through this leveraged buyout. And let’s not forget Pissonia’s fellow directors who are probably rushing around with stiffies and getting hypertensive at the thought of private equity riches for their already bulging pockets.

Oh, and let’s forget the ‘little’ people who work so hard for Alliance-Boots. Will they benefit from this privatisation? A few might, but most likely there would be store closures and land sell-offs, pensions would be affected and customer services reduced. AND if the company leaves the stock market all of this would carry on in private corners without any public scrutiny whatsoever. Perhaps, I’m being a tad cynical but didn’t this same thing just happen with the AA in 2004.

Thinking back, maybe that explains why I had to wait 7+ hours for the AA to get me home one winter’s night in 2005.

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