SYDNEY, AAP – Wesfarmers has bolstered its chances of taking over Australian Pharmaceutical Industries after buying a 19.3 per cent stake.

The retail giant on Thursday took its first stake in the Priceline and Soul Pattinson chemist operator and is competing with rival suitor and pharmacy operator Sigma.

Wesfarmers’ move helps its bid as the company would not vote in favour of Sigma’s offer.

The former has offered $1.55 per share. Sigma says its offer is worth $1.57 per share and includes 35 cents and 2.05 Sigma shares for each API share.

The healthcare company said a merged entity can save at least $45 million per year.

Wesfarmers bought the shares from Washington H. Soul Pattinson for $1.38 each as outlined in the former’s initial proposal in July.

Australian Pharmaceutical Industries shares were higher by 2.17 per cent to $1.53 at 1141 AEDT.

Wesfarmers shares were up 0.83 per cent to $54.52.

Sigma shares were better by 0.44 per cent to 57 cents.