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Li Ka-shing's A S Watson to buy the Netherlands' Dirx Drugstores
January 22, 2015 / 3:36 AM / 3 years ago

Li Ka-shing's A S Watson to buy the Netherlands' Dirx Drugstores

HONG KONG, Jan 22 (Reuters) - A S Watson & Co Ltd IPO-ASWN.HK, backed by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, has agreed to buy all 50 outlets of the Netherlands’ Dirx Drugstores for an undisclosed sum, marking the second overseas purchase this week for Asia’s richest man.

Less than two days earlier, Li’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd agreed to buy Britain’s Eversholt Rail for an enterprise value of 2.5 billion pounds ($3.8 billion), as part of his group’s diversification drive into Europe.

A S Watson, the retail arm of Li’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd , said late on Wednesday it had agreed with the management of health and beauty network Dirx to buy 50 stores and open a further five.

The stores will continue to operate under the brands of Kruidvat or Trekpleister, A S Watson said.

At present, Dirx is “too small a player to independently expand” so the A S Watson deal would “move the business forward”, said Rick Groen, Director of Dirx Drugstores.

Last year, Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd bought 24.9 percent of A S Watson for $5.7 billion, in the Singapore sovereign wealth fund’s biggest single investment.

A S Watson is likely to list within the next two to three years, Li said at the time of the Temasek deal..

Li has been restructuring and expanding abroad as his group outgrows its home market. Earlier this month, the group said it would restructure into two camps, with one focusing on property and the other on telecommunications, retail and energy.

For a story on Li’s dealmaker, click on. (Reporting by Donny Kwok and Denny Thomas; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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