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LAS VEGAS-In a deal involving two of the biggest drug store chains in the country, Rite Aid will exit the Las Vegas market by ceasing operations at its 28 stores in the area and has signed an agreement to sell patient prescription files of 27 stores in the Las Vegas metro market to Walgreens. Rite Aid is in the process of also selling the prescription files of the 28th store, in Mesquite, and will also close that store.

The Camp Hill, PA-based chain plans to continue operating its remaining store in Nevada in Gardnerville, which is close to the border of California, where Rite Aid has more than 600 stores. The chain describes Las Vegas as a non-core market for the company, saying that the Las Vegas market “has not been contributing to overall results.” The company hasn’t opened a new store in the Las Vegas area since 1999.

Whether the Rite Aid stores will remain in business with new operators remains in question. The company says that it is working with interested parties on selling or assigning the leases on the 28 buildings. The company says that it will close the stores, which are located in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Mesquite, over the next three months as it sells or liquidates non-prescription merchandise.

Walgreens, based in Deerfield, IL, operates 53 stores in the Las Vegas market, which it entered in 1996. The company’s Nevada operations include 24-hour pharmacies at 20 locations in the state, drive-through pharmacies and prescription labels available in 14 different languages.

Terms of the Rite Aid-Walgreens transaction were not disclosed. Rite Aid reported a net loss of $84.8 million on $6.5 billion in sales in its latest quarterly financial filing, for the period ended Dec. 1, while Walgreens reported that net earnings for the quarter ended Nov. 30 were up 5.5% to $456 million on $14 billion in sales.

Walgreens lays claim to being the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2007 sales of $ 53.8 billion. The company operates 6,148 stores in 49 states and Puerto Rico, including 60 Happy Harry’s stores in Delaware. Rite Aid Corp. operates more than 5,000 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

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