speculation IS mounting that the billionaire cash and carry magnate Sir Anwar Pervez could be about to emerge as the favourite to buy the Co-operative Group’s pharmacies for about £600m.
A report in The Sunday Times reported that the tycoon has seen off competition from the likes of Lloyds Pharmacy, Alliance Boots and Carlyle, the US buyout firm, and is expected to be named preferred bidder for the pharmacy chain in the next few days.
Sir Anwar began his career in the food business in 1963 when he opened a mini-supermarket in London.
He ventured into the wholesale business in 1976 and has been responsible for growing Bestway Group into the seventh-largest family-owned business in the UK.
Today, Bestway is the second-largest wholesaler in the UK, the second-largest cement producer in Pakistan and the second-largest private bank in Pakistan. The group provides employment for more than 25,700 people around the world.
The Co-op put its 700 chemists up for sale this year as part of efforts to overhaul the group after a troubled period. Earlier this year, the Co-operative Group announced annual losses of £2.5bn after suffering the worst crisis in its history following the near-collapse of its banking arm.
According to The Sunday Times, it is thought that a deal to sell the pharmacy chain to Bestway is appealing because it is unlikely to lead to large scale job cuts.
A Co-operative Group spokesman said yesterday: “We’re making really good progress with the bidding process (for the pharmacies).
“We are confident that we will do a deal by the end of the year.”