Vets First Choice is part of a cluster of animal health companies around Portland that also includes Idexx Laboratories and ImmuCell Corp. Credit: Courtesy of Vets First Choice

Vets First Choice, a fast-growing animal health company based in Portland, will have a new name when it merges with a New York-based company early next year.

The new company, Covetrus, will be public. The merger is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2019.

Vets First Choice, now privately held, said on April 23 that it will merge with the animal health unit of distributor Henry Schein of Melville, New York. Covetrus, the name of the new spin-off company resulting from the merger, was announced late Thursday.

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Vets First Choice is an online portal where veterinarians and their clients can order pet prescriptions and other products.

Its CEO, Benjamin Shaw, said in May that the merged company would have sales of about $3.6 billion, making it Maine’s largest publicly traded company, aside from banks. Shaw will be CEO of the new company and join its board of directors.

Vets First Choice plans to keep the new company’s headquarters in Portland, a company spokesman said. It is planning a $20 million corporate office and specialty pharmacy center in Portland. The new building will include an automated fulfillment center. Shaw said it could eventually employ 250 new pharmacists, chemists and other technologists.

The groundbreaking for the new headquarters was in October. The company has about 300 employees in Portland, and the new headquarters will ultimately support more than 1,500, according to Vets First Choice spokesman William Durling.

“That growth will come organically over time, not from an influx of transferring Henry Schein employees,” he said.

[Company says new Portland headquarters will add 1,000 jobs]

Covetrus will be a global business for the companion animal, equine and large-animal veterinary markets. Among its products and services are practice management software for veterinarians, prescription management, client engagement services and supply chain infrastructure to help connect veterinarians and their clients.

It expects to employ more than 5,000 people in about 25 countries and have about 100,000 customers worldwide.

Henry Schein Animal Health and Vets First Choice will operate as two separate organizations until the closing of the merger.

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