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Whitworths sale to be completed 'mid-2024' according to annual report

For-sale pharmacy chain has reported a £1.8m pre-tax loss despite rising revenues.

Independent family-owned chain Whitworth Chemists expects the sale of its 34 pharmacies will be completed by “mid-2024”, its annual report has revealed.

According to its annual report, Whitworths expects “all the company's debts and liabilities will be repaid in full” once the sales process is completed.

Sales revenue at the company rose by 8% to £31 million in the financial year ending on March 31 last year, according to Whitworths’ accounts, signed on February 28 and filed with Companies House on June 17.

Read more: Britannia Pharmacy bitten by inflation as it reveals 96% profit drop

But Whitworths saw its profit before tax fall into the red - it lost £1.8m in 2023 after netting a profit before tax of £496,710 in 2022.

“Final stages”

In November last year - after the reporting period ended - Whitworths engaged the services of pharmacy broker Christie & Co to sell off the multiple’s estate.

At the time, C+D reported that Whitworth’s then-superintendent pharmacist and managing director Jay Badenhorst had said that “the time has come for the family shareholders to step back from the business".

Read more: 'Strategic acquisitions': Cohens buys seven pharmacies amid nearly £6m loss

The annual report reveals that Whitworths is selling its pharmacies “individually” with three sold at the time of the report’s writing.

It adds “in the final stages of negotiations with buyers” and expects the “remaining transactions” to be completed “in the coming months”.

Whitworths had 301 employees in the year and paid £5.7m in salaries.

Its directors report declared that the company had paid £445,237 in dividends throughout the year, although it did not pay out any final dividends.

“Above average growth"

According to the report, Whitworths saw “continued growth” in prescription dispensing. It said that it takes a “proactive approach to promoting healthy lifestyles”, which helps it “stand out” from the local competition.

Read more: UPDATED: Boots reports 60% profit spike as sales surge

It recorded “above-average growth” in income from “professional services”, particularly private services.

But the chain admitted that the year had been “very challenging within the sector” owing to reduced funding “despite the rise in both staff and establishment costs associated with the increase in prescription volumes”.

Whitworths said that its management had paid particular attention to controlling costs in the year. It noted that Category M clawbacks, “increased locum rates”, recruitment challenges, and inflation had taken a toll.

In an apparent reference to Pharmacy First, the report said a “key risk” to the industry was the introduction of “additional clinical services… without addressing the chronic underfunding”.

Multiple problems

Whitworths accounts paint a similar picture to that seen across the community pharmacy sector.

Read more: Avicenna pharmacies ‘feel the squeeze’ amid branch disposal plans

Last week (June 19), C+D reported that Britannia Pharmacy had seen its pre-tax profits drop by 96% to just under £23,000. Its report announced that it was still “reeling from the aftermath of the pandemic”.

Kamsons Pharmacy, which runs 85 branches, reported that its profits before tax dipped by 18% to £2.8m in 2023, as reported by C+D on June 10. The independent multiple said that the drop in its profit was due to cuts to pharmacy funding.

Read more: Kamsons sees 16% sales lift but warns margins under ‘significant pressure’

And in May, Cohens Chemist revealed that it had suffered a £5.7 million loss, even as it increased its turnover by £21m to £253m in the year.

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