Walgreens to buy 40 percent stake in Chinese pharmacy chain

(Reuters) - Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc WBA.O said it would buy a 40 percent stake in Chinese pharmacy chain operator Sinopharm Holding GuoDa Drugstores Co Ltd, as the U.S. drugstore chain seeks to expand in the country's fast-growing healthcare market.

Walgreens, the biggest U.S. drugstore chain, said on Wednesday it would buy the minority stake from China National Accord Medicines Corp Ltd for about $416 million.

The deal comes when the Chinese government has been encouraging private investments and equity from abroad in its healthcare industry.

Healthcare expenditure in China is expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2020, according to an estimate by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

GuoDa, which operates and franchises 3,500 retail pharmacies across 70 cities in China, said the Walgreens investment would help its nationwide expansion plans.

Reporting by Gayathree Ganesan and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila