International News - CVS makes it big with Eckerd buy

Pharmacy giant CVS has bought part of JC Penney's Eckerd chain in a deal that sees it surpass Walgreens as the biggest US drugstore operator.

CVS snapped up Eckerd's pharmacy benefits management and mail order business along with 1,260 stores, mainly in Florida and Texas, for US$2.15 billion (£1.17 billion).

The deal will create a 5,000-store and mail order business, with sales of US$33 billion (£18 billion). In the year to August 31, 2003, Walgreens had 4,227 stores and sales of $32.5 billion (£17.71 billion).

Canadian Jean Coutu Group bought the remaining 1,600 Eckerd stores and the Florida headquarters for US$2.38 billion (£1.3 billion).