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Brazil's Ultrapar talks to buy Big Ben drugstore chain collapse -sources

By Tatiana Bautzer

SAO PAULO, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Brasil Pharma SA, the country's third-largest drug retailer, has walked away from talks with Brazilian industrial conglomerate Ultrapar Participações SA to sell drugstore chain Distribuidora Big Ben SA, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Extrafarma SA, Ultrapar's drug retailing arm, offered much less than the 750 million reais ($229 million) that Brasil Pharma expected, the sources said.

Belém, Brazil-based Big Ben, which has 264 stores across Brazil's north and northeastern states, is the largest drugstore chain owned by Brasil Pharma.

Created as a vehicle to consolidate the purchases of regional drugstore chains, BR Pharma has grappled with integration problems, shareholder disputes, high debt and rising competition.

The São Paulo-based company is controlled by the buyout arm of investment bank Grupo BTG Pactual SA and its clients.

Brasil Pharma is looking for other alternatives for Big Ben, the sources added.

Grupo BTG Pactual and Brasil Pharma did not have an immediate comment. Ultrapar declined to comment.

Brasil Pharma announced on Sept. 26 that it had sold another drugstore chain, Drogaria Rosário Distrital, to wholesale pharmacy firm Profarma Distribuidora de Produtos Farmacêuticos SA for 173 million reais.

Reuters had reported on Sept. 7 that Brasil Pharma was in talks to sell Rosário to Profarma and Big Ben to Ultrapar.

Brasil Pharma planned to keep regional chains Farmais and Sant'Anna after the sale of Big Ben. The company has already sold loss-making chain Mais Econômica to local investors for $12 million. ($1 = 3.2780 reais) (Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Sandra Maler)