US pharmacy chain buys out Swiss-based rival

Shareholder of US pharmacy chain Walgreens has approved a $16 billion takeover of Swiss-based rival Alliance Boots that creates a global leader in the drug store business.

US pharmacy chain buys out Swiss-based rival
Photo: Shaun Curry/AFP

Walgreens said that 97 percent of its shareholders approved the company's acquisition of the remaining 55 percent of Alliance Boots it does not currently own.
"The transaction will fully combine the two companies to form the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise," said Walgreens, which has more than 8,200 US stores.
The deal involves reorganization into a holding company structure, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., with Walgreens a wholly owned subsidiary.
The combined company will be headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, where Walgreens is based, and will have more than 11,000 stores in 10 countries. The wholesale operations will have a presence in some 20 countries.
Boots operations will continue at its current British headquarters in Nottingham.
Stefano Pessina, the Alliance Boots executive chairman, will lead the new company as acting chief executive.
Walgreens announced earlier in December that president and CEO Greg Wasson would step down shortly after the deal closes.
Walgreens chairman James Skinner is to become the executive chairman of Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Walgreens said the transaction is expected to be completed on Wednesday. The combined company's shares will trade under the ticker symbol WBA on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Shares in Walgreens were up 0.4 percent at $76.77 in early-afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 2012, Walgreens acquired a 45 percent stake in Alliance Boots, based in Bern, Switzerland, for $6.7 billion, with an option to buy the rest for about $9.5 billion.
In August Walgreens said it would exercise that option but that it would not combine with Alliance Boots under a foreign parent company in a controversial "tax inversion" that provides shelter from US taxes.
Walgreens said it had abandoned the idea in part because of public opposition to inversions and the fact that a major portion of its revenues come from government-funded reimbursement programs.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Switzerland’s basic health insurance is among the most expensive in the world, but there are certain services it doesn’t pay for. Here are some of the benefits the scheme won’t cover in full.

What isn't covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian —  is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap, but it is quite comprehensive and includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

It also covers accidents for those who do not have accident insurance through their workplace.

Basically, whatever the doctor orders is covered by KVG / LaMal, at least partially.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

However, there are some treatments the basic insurance won’t pay for.

Experimental treatments

Any experimental treatments or drugs — that is, those not approved by the Swissmedic regulatory agency or the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will not be covered.

This exclusion is not specifically Swiss; insurance schemes is most countries won’t cover unauthorised medical treatment either.

Dental care

In most cases, services such as teeth cleaning, dental fillings, root canals, tooth extractions, and orthodontic braces, are not included under basic insurance.

The only exceptions, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), are dental interventions “necessitated by a serious disorder of the masticatory system, or if such treatment is required to support and ensure the success of medical treatment for a severe general disorder (e.g. leukaemia, heart-valve replacement)”.

Most dental treatments are not covered. Photo by Pixabay

Eyeglasses and contact lenses

Compulsory health insurance will contribute up to 180 francs per year towards glasses and contact lenses prescribed by an ophthalmologist for children up to the age of 18.

No such benefit exist for adults. However, “in the case of serious visual impairment or certain illnesses (e.g. disease-related refraction abnormalities, postoperative alterations or corneal disease), compulsory health insurance will, regardless of age, make higher contributions towards medically prescribed spectacle and contact lenses”, FOPH says.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?


Emergency vehicles that transport you to a hospital can be quite expensive — depending on the canton, the costs can range from 900 to 2,000 francs per trip. 

Basic health insurance will contribute a certain amount  to the cost of emergency transportation, but only if it is a medical necessity — a serious accident, an illness, or a life-threatening situation. But if the patient could have travelled by private car or public transport, basic health insurance policies will pay nothing.

Insurance will cover some of the cost of ambulance transport only in emergency. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Private hospital room

While the cost of your hospitalisation will be fully covered, the basic insurance does not pay for a private room.

You will be accommodated in a room with other patients.

Depending on a medical facility — whether it’s a small hospital or a large, university medical centre, you could end up with just one other person or possibly four or five, the latter being common in teaching hospitals.

If you insist on a private accommodation, you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?


Immunisations outlined by FOPH  will be paid for by insurance, as will the Covid vaccine.

Not covered, however, are travel-related vaccinations or preventive measures, such as against yellow fever or malaria.

Treatment abroad

Outside Switzerland, only emergency care is covered  — double the amount that the same treatment would cost in Switzerland.

Usually, basic health insurance will not cover transportation costs back to Switzerland, except in case of emergency, when it will cover 50 percent of the total cost of transportation to the nearest hospital abroad — but no more than 500 francs per year. 

If you only have a basic insurance policy and travel abroad often, especially to the United States, you should take out a travel insurance that will cover you for illness and accidents in foreign countries above and beyond what your Swiss carrier will pay.

And if you want to upgrade your treatment options, consider taking out a supplemental insurance or, if you can afford it, private one.

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

You can find out more about what KVG / LaMal will and will not cover here.