BY SIDEK KAMISO
A.S. WATSON Group, controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, has maintained its commitment to expand in Malaysia despite a setback in its bid to acquire Apex Pharmacy's retail outlets.
?We are very focused on strengthening our presence in Asia, which is our home base; and Malaysia is a key market in the region,? general manager Ian Cruddas said in a statement yesterday.
A.S. Watson's proposal to acquire Apex Healthcare's retail operation was rejected by the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) yesterday following months of negotiations.
Cruddas said the failure to acquire the Apex retail outlets meant that the group now had to grow organically. It had already set its sights on opening 28 new stores in strategic locations throughout Malaysia this year to bring the total number of stores to 97.
?We will continue to focus on strengthening our existing operations, expanding our retail network as well as increasing marketing efforts to further enlarge our share of the Malaysian retail market,? he said.
For Apex, the proposed deal could have allowed it to focus on manufacturing and distribution, which account for 65% of its profit.
Apex did not say why the FIC rejected Watson's takeover plan, but analysts said it would be a setback for Apex, which was willing to let go of its retail operation.
?The retail sector is very competitive and it will be tough for Apex to maintain its stores without sacrificing its market,? an analyst told StarBiz. A thinly traded Apex Healthcare was traded unchanged at RM1.98.