The health and beauty group best known for the Boots stores has since 2007 been a privately-held company with no shares trading on public exchanges but reports its financials nonetheless in an effort to demonstrate good governance. We know therefore that revenue in 2009 was up 15.5 per cent year on year to $20.5bn and the company said it had succeeded in clawing back its £100m target through synergies with Alliance Unichem, the pharmacist with which it merged in 2006.

In 2008/2009, Alliance Boots invested £272m in capital expenditure, according to its annual report, with the roll-out of "your local Boots pharmacy" formats and new retail stores, refits and relocations. Other major investments included a new central distribution centre in Nottingham (where Jesse Boot founded Boots over 150 years ago) as part of a major supply-chain rethink, and IT.

IT is also critical to Alliance Boots efforts to go green. In June 2008, the firm received a grant from the Technology Strategy Board, an executive non-departmental public body to develop processes that could let algae grow using carbon dioxide emissions.

IT also plays a big part in Boots' huge loyalty card scheme for which it claims 15 million users. The firm uses web-based software for recruitment and security is a high-priority concern, especially as Boots suffered its own data loss when tapes with customer details were stolen from a courier in 2008.

In January Alliance Boots said it would buy opticians Dollond & Aitchison and in September 2009, Waitrose said it would sell Boots products through a 300-strong network of convenience stores. However, Boots also courted controversy in the year by appointing Andy Hornby, formerly of HBOS, as chief executive; by laying off staff in a cost-cutting exercise; and by ending its ETI ethical pledge to ban suppliers who use child or forced labour.