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Walgreen Co. to Buy Duane Reade

A big merger comes through on the retail front. Walgreen Co. has agreed to buy Duane Reade Co. for $1.1 billion.

Walgreen, the national pharmacy chain, said on Wednesday that it has agreed to buy Duane Reade Holdings, whose drugstores occupy many a New York City corner, for about $1.1 billion in cash.

Walgreen is buying the 257-store chain, which is burdened by a big debt load, from the private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners. The deal will be financed by Walgreen's cash on hand and includes the assumption of debt.

“Duane Reade is a compelling strategic acquisition that will immediately provide Walgreens with a leading position in the largest drugstore market in the U.S.,” Gregory D. Wasson, Walgreen's chief executive, said in a statement.

Duane Reade, founded in 1960 and named after the two streets in Lower Manhattan where the first store was built, generated about $1.8 billion in sales in 2009, according to Walgreen.

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