03/30/07 — Rite Aid may buy Eckerd

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Rite Aid may buy Eckerd

By Lee Williams
Published in News on March 30, 2007 1:47 PM

Eckerd drug stores in Wayne County could soon become the new Rite Aid pharmacy if a merger is approved by the federal government.

A plan to merge Rite Aid Corp. of Camp Hill, Penn. and The Jean Coutu Group Inc. of Quebec, Canada has been submitted to a federal regulatory agency for review.

If the deal is approved, The Jean Coutu Group, which owns 1,521 Eckerd drug stores, 337 Brooks pharmacies and six distribution centers, will be renamed Rite Aid.

And that means Rite Aid pharmacy with its signature red, white and blue banner could soon call North Carolina home.

"The deal is not yet completed," Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said. "We announced the definitive agreement on Aug. 24, 2006. We will be entering North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Massachusetts once the deal goes through."

Rite Aid's roots began about 44 years ago in Scranton, Penn. The drug store chain grew and spread out primarily along the East Coast. The merger will give Rite Aid the chance to enter the southern market.

"We are currently in 27 states and with the acquisition we will be in 31 states and the District of Columbia," Ms. Flower said.

Under the merger, Rite Aid will own 5,000 drug stores in the transaction valued at $3.4 billion, according to the company's Web site.

"With the merger, we will be the largest drug store chain on the East Coast," Ms. Flower said. The merger could also make Rite Aid the third largest drug store chain in the country.

Rite Aid's fourth quarter closed on March 3. The fourth quarter and year-end results are expected to be announced on April 12. Rite Aid officials are hopeful the merger will be completed by next month.

Many of the newly-acquired pharmacies will undergo a makeover. The stores will be restocked with Rite Aid store brand products and the Eckerd and Brooks marquises will be taken down and replaced with Rite Aid signs. Eckerd shoppers are not expected to experience any problems with getting their old prescriptions filled.