Health and beauty star performer
Pharmacy powerhouse Alliance Boots, which deputy chairman Stefano Pessina hopes to take private with backing from private equity group KKR, expects full-year profits in line with its targets.

The company also revealed in a pre-close statement that it would rebrand most of its community pharmacies to the Your Local Boots Pharmacy fascia following a successful trial. The cost of the roll-out will be£65 million.

Management said Alliance Boots was 'performing well' in the fourth quarter and had delivered against its plans following last year's merger between the wholesale giant and the retailer. Annual cost savings of at least£100 million are expected by the fourth year of the merger.

A property review has identified 100 places where the group will attempt to relocate or shut outlets at a cost of£35 million.

Underlying retail like-for-like growth is expected to be 2.3 per cent for the quarter. Health and beauty has performed especially well, 'as a result of improved stock management following infrastructure investments, better buying and better targeted marketing programmes', according to the group.

Chief executive Richard Baker said: 'In a year of extraordinary change, we have delivered against our plans for bringing our businesses together, for continuing to grow them and for delivering the initial cost merger synergies. This has been achieved in the face of continuing strong competition.'

Pali International analyst Nick Bubb welcomed news that gross margins were firm, but described like-for-like growth as 'sluggish'. He said that the pressure is now on KKR to 'sweeten' its offer. Boots' board has rejected a£10-a-share offer from the private equity group.