State pharmacies set for sell off

Almost two-thirds of the branches of Swedish state-owned pharmacy Apoteket could be privatized, according to a proposal from the company tasked by the government with breaking up the monopoly.

Large and medium-sized operations will be offered the chance to take over

466 of the pharmacies. A further 150 will be transferred into a state-owned company with majority stakes offered to small business owners, according to the proposals published by Apoteket Omstrukturering AB on Tuesday.

The selection of the pharmacies to be put up for sale has been made with regard to geographical location, size, type and profitability.

The aim of the proposal is for the independent pharmacy chains to be able to effectively compete with state-owned Apoteket AB, which will retain 330 pharmacies.

The pharmacies will be offered for sale from May and all branches will remain open during the process.

“We will not have a single day when the curtains are drawn and a “closed for renovation” sign put up,” said Eva-Britt Gustafsson, CEO of Apoteket Omstrukturering AB.

The 466 branches identified for sale to larger operators will be divided into eight groups, with between ten and 200 pharmacies in each.

Swedish and foreign companies are among the interest parties which have been in contact with the government via Apoteket Omstrukturering AB. The firms come from venture capital and pharmacy retail as well as other business sectors.

Staff that currently work for the pharmacies earmarked for sale will be offered continued employment.

“We have found that there is a great interest in moving over,” Gustafsson said.

The state share of the firm that will take over the 150 pharmacies identified for sale to franchisees “could be liquidated in the longer term.”

There are currently a total of 946 pharmacies located across Sweden.

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Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin

Swedish pharmacy chain Apoteket has told The Local it is hoping to offer a range of bandaids suitable for customers with darker skin tones by the end of the year as part of efforts to cut discrimination.

Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin
An Apoteket store in Stockholm. Photo: Roger Vikström/TT
The company, which has 370 stores across Sweden said it had come up with the idea after talking to a number of Swedish anti-racism charities.
“We're looking at whether it's possible to have different coloured plasters but we haven't made a final decision on it yet,” Communications Director Eva Fernvall told The Local on Wednesday.
“It won't happen by next week but we hope to have something in place by the end of the year,” she added.
Apoteket faced criticism earlier this week by a Swedish blogger who runs the website (which translates as 'Everyday Racism').
Paula Dahlberg told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio on Monday that the pharmacy giant was contributing to racism by only offering shades of beige plasters (also called bandaids in some countries) on its shelves.
But Fernvall insisted that the company's decision to trial darker products was made long before the writer made the comments.
“The fact she said that demonstrates that there are heated discussions about immigrants and refugees right now,” she said, adding that the national chemist chain was committed to reducing discrimination.
She admitted that the plaster plan was “unusual” and noted that she had “never heard of anything like this in any other countries”.
Debates around immigration have intensified over the last 12 months in Sweden, which currently takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation.
The nationalist Sweden Democrat party is the third largest in parliament after winning 12.9 percent of the vote in elections in September 2014 and is continuing to gain public support.
Sweden's government has said it is committed to maintaining the nation's reputation for tolerance and offering help to refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and Africa. But it has welcomed efforts by the European Commission to encourage other European Union member states to take in a greater share of asylum seekers.