Walgreens is buying rival Rite Aid for about $9.41 billion in cash, creating a drugstore giant with nearly 18,000 stores around the world. Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald

NEW YORK — Walgreens is buying rival Rite Aid for about $9.41 billion in cash, creating a drugstore giant with nearly 18,000 stores around the world.

The deal combines the largest and third-largest U.S. drugstore chains, based on store counts. And it makes one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical buyers even bigger at a time when other key health care players like insurers and drugmakers also are expanding through multi-billion dollar deals.

Walgreens said it will pay $9 for each share of Rite Aid Corp. That’s a 48 percent premium to Rite Aid’s closing price of $6.08 Monday. Shares of both companies

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