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We are looking for investment but we are not for sale, insists Avicenna chief executive

By Neil Trainis

PUBLISHED: August 10, 2017 | UPDATED: August 10, 2017

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Salim Jetha, the chief executive of Avicenna, has dismissed speculation that he and the company’s other directors are looking to sell the pharmacy support group.

Attempting to play down rumours that the five directors are seeking interested buyers to acquire the company which has over 1,000 members, Jetha (pictured) insisted they “haven’t put up (a) ‘for sale’ sign and neither have we engaged an agent” but conceded they are looking for ways to generate fresh investment.

Rumours of an impending sale were stoked by a source close to Avicenna who told Pharmacy Business: “There are two schools of thought. One, they are looking at selling. Or two, they are looking at doing their overseas conferences every two years (instead of annually). I think they are looking at selling, trying to tidy up their books, get their books in order.

“At Avicenna’s 25th anniversary dinner (in July) they gave a hint they were looking to exit, to sell. I’ve met a lot of shareholders. I met (a pharmacist) who told me Avicenna are thinking of selling, that instead of rebates to members they’ve been issuing shares. (I was told) they need to find a buyer for the shares.

“A lot of pharmacists have protested. You get the feeling that Salim and Raj (Haria, the commercial director) are getting fed up because nothing is happening.”

The source added: “Day Lewis has an interest in Avicenna, so they’ll have first crack at buying their pharmacies. If ever there was a sale they’ll have first option. Even as a minority (shareholder) they can block the transaction, they can make mischief in that way. They can block a transaction if they feel the price is not right.”

Day Lewis refused to comment.

When contacted by Pharmacy Business in July Jetha denied that Avicenna would be sold but said they were considering options to “accelerate growth” such as floating on the London Stock Exchange and talking to potential investors, suggesting “this is not immediate and could take a few years.”

When contacted again this month Jetha said: “We haven’t put up (a) ‘for sale’ sign and neither have we engaged an agent. But we are considering to engage an adviser to help us formulate various strategy options for growth.”

The source added: “Salim is not as active as he once was. As soon as something came up relating to pharmacy he always used to have his say. I think he wants to cash in. They are finding there is no growth. The market is very complicated. The NHS has put a lot of tightening, a lot of screws.

“Avicenna is in a good financial state but who will buy them? The shops (pharmacies) aren’t valuing as high in the NHS.”