Bestway got a "fair price" for the Co-operative pharmacies, chief executive Zameer Choudrey has told C+D in an exclusive interview.
The UK-based food wholesaler bought the 771 branches in July for £620 million – a cost of £804,000 per pharmacy – and Mr Choudrey said he was "happy" with the price the company paid.
"It was a fair deal for the Co-operative Group and for us. I don't think we under- or over-paid," he told C+D on Tuesday (October 7).
Bestway, which took formal control of the pharmacies on Monday (October 6), had not been the highest bidder for the pharmacy chain but it was a "better fit" for the business, he said. Mr Choudrey did not confirm who the rival bidder was, but both Boots and Lloydspharmacy were remoured to be interested in buying the chain.
The Bestway Group owns food wholesale, cement manufacturing and banking businesses and Mr Choudrey said there had been "scepticism in the market" when it decided to enter the pharmacy sector.
"When we went into cement and banks people were asking questions, and this time was no different. We were determined and we got there in the end," he added.
Co-operative Pharmacy managing director John Nuttall – who confirmed he would retain his role following the sale – told C+D that Bestway had provided the "strongest credentials" of any bidder and had been "prepared to invest" in the business.
With the addition of the Co-operative pharmacies, Bestway will have an annual turnover of approximately £3.6 billion and a global workforce of more than 33,000 people, including more than 11,900 in the UK.
The group has the right to operate the pharmacies under the Co-operative branding for a transitional period of 12 months, but had already begun "developing and testing" branding with the aim of confirming a new name by April 2015, it said.
Timeline of the Co-operative sale
April 2014: The Co-operative Group announces that its pharmacies will not be part of its future plans, after a "disastrous" financial year.
April 2014: C+D reports that a consortium of pharmacists has pledged more than £40m to buy the business.
May 2014: A well-placed source confirms that Alliance Boots has put in an offer to buy the pharmacy chain, although it is unclear whether the deal is for all 771 branches.
June 2014: Another group of pharmacists forms a legal partnership with the aim of either bidding for the pharmacies itself or persuading the Co-operative Group to sell the branches to the independent sector.
July 2014: Lloydspharmacy parent company Celesio refuses to comment to C+D on claims by the Sunday Timesthat the multiple had also made an offer for the pharmacies.
July 2014:The Co-operative Group announces it will sell all 771 pharmacies to Bestway for £620m. Chief executive Zameer Choudrey says there is "great potential" to grow the business.
October 2014: Bestway takes formal control of the pharmacy business and reveals plans to relocate its headquarters within Manchester.