Walgreen Co. announced Thursday that it has entered into an agreement to purchase USA Drug Stores, a regional drugstore chain in the mid-South owned by Stephen L. LaFrance Holdings Inc. and members of the LaFrance family.

The transaction includes 144 stores currently operated under the USA Drug, Super D Drug, May’s Drug, Med-X and Drug Warehouse stores located in Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The acquisition also includes corporate offices, a distribution center located in Pine Bluff, and a wholesale and private brand business, for a total of approximately $438 million. USA Drug recorded sales of $825 million in 2011.


Wal-Mart executive Eduardo Castro-Wright, who remains at the center of a Mexican bribery scandal, retired from the retail giant on July 1 as planned and without much fanfare.

Castro-Wright, once a rising star in the Wal-Mart ranks, resigned from his board position in April after news of the alleged Mexican bribery scandal erupted. He was head of the company’s Mexican operations during its high-growth years when much of the alleged bribery occurred.


Gov. Mike Beebe’s week-long trade mission to France should result in expansions of existing French firms doing business in Arkansas and could result in research collaborations for food safety and agricultural productivity.

He said that agri-research being conducted at numerous Arkansas universities in the fields of nanotechnology and food safety were high priorities. Beebe noted that the National Center for Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff also could benefit from a French exchange.

The governor said that he met with five French-based companies that conduct business in Arkansas about possible expansions. Beebe said one of those companies is close to making a decision.


Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday that he’s inclined to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls under a provision in the federal law that was ruled constitutional last week.

Beebe argued that as many as 250,000 uninsured Arkansans could benefit from the expansion with the federal government paying 100 percent of the costs in the first three years, starting in 2014, ultimately reducing federal support to 90 percent of the costs with the state paying 10 percent.

Beebe said it would take “a pretty dang strong argument” for him to allow Arkansas taxpayers to pay federal taxes without benefiting from the federal coverage. “I don’t want to send it to Massachusetts or California,” he said.


Boosted by a record-strong June month of tax collections, Arkansas state government ended its fiscal year on June 30 with a $145.6 million budget surplus. The final tally was 3.2 percent higher than forecasters predicted.

Individual and corporate income tax collections aided the strong conclusion to the fiscal year, as did a surprising uptick in consumer and business spending. For the full fiscal year, net available general revenues topped $4.75 billion, a new one-year record. The amount is $178.7 million or 3.9 percent above last year.


The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery ended the fiscal year more than $10 million ahead of its previous annual sales. The Arkansas Lottery Commission said yearly sales totalled $474,076,726. That figure is unaudited and could change.

Audited numbers are expected to be released on July 10 when the state’s lottery scholarship numbers will be updated. In the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the scholarship fund had a balance of $88,403,303.


The state’s online checkbook is open to the public. The online data center – found at Transparency.Arkansas.Gov – pools a mountain of revenue and expense data for nearly all of state government. The website allows users to drill into an agency’s revenue streams, expenditures, employee salaries, payments to cities and counties, bonded indebtedness and vendor contracts.


Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes a column for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central Arkansas. His e-mail address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net.