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PHILIPPINES -- Philippine Seven Corp., operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores in the Philippines, plans to open 50 new stores this year in a major expansion throughout the country.

According to Financial Times Limited-Asia, president Jose Victor P. Paterno told reporters at the company's shareholders' meeting that the firm aims to grow to more than 300 stores by the end of the year. The company operated 265 stores in the Philippines as of the end of last year.

Most of the new stores will be company-owned, said Paterno, but the company expects to increase its number of franchised stores going forward, from 30 percent of the chain to 40 percent of the chain.
The company also plans to add drug store products to its mix in the Philippines and is scouting for partners who might want to rent space inside its 7-Eleven stores for pharmacy operations.

"We have some very preliminary discussions with some parties. But we are not taking in anybody [yet], there are no serious talks at the moment. It is something in the air," Paterno said, according to Financial Times Limited-Asia.

Philippine Seven previously pilot-tested venturing into the pharmacy business through new drugstore chain Med Express.

"We have one store in Boni [Mandaluyong City] where we piloted the concept, but we found that it's a different business, it has a different supply chain, inventory and systems," Paterno told reporters.

Med Express joined the medical retailing industry last year offering a new concept of delivery and drive-through services in its three drugstore outlets located in Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City, Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City, and Filinvest Alabang, in Muntinlupa, according to Financial Times Limited-Asia.