Walgreens Boots Alliance has about 13,200 stores in a dozen countries
New York - AFP
US drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance is in advanced talks to acquire smaller rival Rite Aid in a deal that could approach $10 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
A merger would unify the number two and three US drugstore chains behind CVS Health, which had revenues of $139.4 billion in 2014.
A deal could be announced as soon as Wednesday, the Journal said on its website. Walgreens Boots is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday morning.
Near 1800 GMT, shares of Rite Aid surged 38.5 percent to $8.42, while Walgreens Boots Alliance advanced 5.5 percent to $94.37.
Walgreens Boots Alliance has about 13,200 stores in a dozen countries and reported sales of $76.4 billion in 2014. US-based Walgreen's completed its acquisition of British company Boots at the end of 2014.
Rite Aid has about 4,600 stores in the US and reported sales last year of $25.5 billion.
The deal comes as a wave of consolidation spreads throughout the health care industry in response to the Affordable Care Act, which is putting pressure on the industry to cut costs.
In July, health insurer Aetna announced plans to buy rival Humana. A few weeks later, Anthem announced plans to buy rival Cigna in another union of health insurers.
Other corners of health care, including pharmaceuticals and hospital companies, have also sought to beef up to boost their competitiveness as the industry consolidates.