The UK pharmacy sector is facing a shake-up after the Rowlands chain was put up for sale following the suicide of its German owner, Adolf Merckle.
The billionaire's Phoenix Group owns the 500-strong Rowlands chain of retail pharmacies, as well as the UK's third largest wholesale drugs distribution business and a buying supply group for individual pharmacies, called Numark.
Mr Merckle, 74, killed himself after suffering massive losses by speculating that Volkswagen shares would fall amid the credit crunch. In October 2008, shares of the car maker more than quadrupled in value.
Banks, including Royal Bank of Scotland, are said to have granted a bridging loan to keep Mr Merckle's holding company afloat, with certain conditions reportedly attached – including the sale of Phoenix.
A report in the Times says the business could go on sale with an estimated value of up to six billion euros (£5.4bn).
Phoenix has its headquarters in Germany, but the group has a significant UK presence.
Mr Merckle owned a controlling stake in VEM Vermogensverwaltung, the holding company of Phoenix and a number of other firms, including German generic drugs business Ratiopharm, another of its interests reportedly up for sale.