Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina has pledged to ramp up earnings by at least 10 per cent a year while he runs the business.

He said: “I’ve always had a simple rule – double-digit growth.” Pessina said he had met that target every year for 37 years and saw no reason why things would be different in future. “I’ve got a good track record,” he said. “I’m 66 – why would I destroy my record at the end of my career?”

Pessina, along with private equity giant KKR, took Alliance Boots private last year. Valued at£11 billion, the deal was Europe’s biggest ever leveraged buy-out and the first private equity takeover of a FTSE 100 company.

Since then, the credit crunch has effectively put a stop to private equity deals and fears have been raised over the high level of debt typically carried by private equity-owned businesses.

Pessina is confident that Alliance Boots’£8 billion debt was “absolutely manageable”. He said: “In my previous private companies, I was used to having debt on the balance sheet.”

Speaking at last week’s World Retail Congress in Barcelona, Pessina said he expected Alliance Boots to expand its retail business in Europe as governments relax pharmacy restrictions.

He said: “Sooner or later, governments will open up to pharmacy chains and we will have a fantastic opportunity.”

Pessina was emphatic that private ownership was the best structure for Alliance Boots at present, despite having bought the business so soon after the merger of Alliance and Boots.

He said: “The company was progressing well, but not as much as I wanted and the healthcare environment was changing very rapidly. We’re doing what we’ve done, but more rapidly and on a larger scale.”

He admitted that luck had played a part in his career, but said perseverance, passion, the desire to build something and the ability to spot and seize opportunities had been key.