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Pharmacy giant looks to expand as profits rise

06-May-2008: United Drug could complete more than 20 acquisitions this year and said it expects strong trading in the first half of this financial period to be repeated during the during the following six months.

The group, which distributes medical and pharmaceutical products to more than 1,200 pharmacies and 200 hospitals in Ireland, said that first-half operating profits rose 20pc to €36.6m, while sales were up 9pc to €845m. Adjusted earnings per share rose 13pc to 12.13 cents.

Chief executive Liam FitzGerald described the performance as an "excellent start" to the financial year, adding expansion of services is possible.

The company said that government intervention is having a "significant impact" on the retail pharmacy marketplace but an increase of dispensing fees should help offset some of the impact on pharmacists.

The HSE and the pharmacists have been locked in a battle over the health authority's decision to cut margins paid under the general medical scheme to wholesalers. Last week the HSE agreed to enter into more detailed negotiations with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union.

United Drug took a €1m hit on its profits due to sterling weakness.

The firm's shares closed up almost 2.4pc yesterday at €3.90.

Source: Irish Independent

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