Walgreens hopes its new plan will please the Federal Trade Commission, which declined the merger between Walgreens and Rite Aid in January, according to a Bloomberg report citing “people familiar with the matter.” The FTC said it did not like Walgreens’ then-plan to sell 865 Rite Aid stores to smaller Fred’s in return for regulatory approval for Walgreens and Rite Aid to merge. (See also: Rite Aid Plunges as FTC Deals Blow to Merger Plan.)
Walgreens could present the new proposal, which will likely include a sale of more than 865 stores, in the next few weeks. Tennessee-based Fred’s Inc. would get assets like more stores, software, distribution centers and personnel to give it more of a competitive edge to score U.S. antitrust clearance, Bloomberg’s source said.
Walgreens currently operates about 8,200 stores, and Rite Aid operates about 5,000. The combination of the two pharmacy chains, which are currently the second and third-largest in the U.S., would vault them to the top position in the industry, above current leader CVS Health Corp. (CVS), which has 9,700 stores.
Rite Aid shares, trading near $5 in recent sessions, are well below the asking price of between $6.50 and $7 per share that the companies had agreed to in January, according to a deal that expires in July. That’s below the $9-per-share price Walgreens agreed to pay in 2015.
Walgreens shares are up 3.2 percent year to date; Fred’s is down 17.5 percent. Rite Aid Corp. is down 40 percent and CVS is up 1.2 percent.