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ID NEWS: Wal-Mart to sell McLane, thus exiting food distribution

Analyst speculation that Wal-Mart would jump into the foodservice distribution game with a major acquisition, such as U.S. Foodservice (USF), appears to have been quashed, with the announcement that the retail giant will sell its $22-billion McLane Co. grocery and foodservice distribution unit. The buyer: Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.

Proceeds of this deal and a $50-million deal ID reported earlier-the sale of McLane's Merit Distribution Services trucking business to Swift Transportation Co.--reportedly amount to approximately $1.5 billion.

The transaction will include the Temple, Texas, based distributor's $3.6-billion systems foodservice division, McLane Foodservice.

"The likelihood of [Wal-Mart] being interested in U.S. Foodservice now has gone to zero," Andrew Wolf, an analyst for BB&T Capital Markets, told Reuters.

The deal is expected to facilitate growth of Wal-Mart's retail side, which has been expanding much faster than McLane, according to Reuters. Berkshire Hathaway-a holding company with subsidiaries in diverse business activities-- has been on a "buying binge" in the last two years, Reuters also said.

"McLane Company and our dedicated teammates have thoroughly enjoyed the years spent with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.," notes Grady Rosier, president and ceo of McLane. "We are equally excited about joining Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., and the opportunities this change in ownership will create for our future."

"Grady Rosier has developed a service-oriented organization that supplies tens of thousands of locations in an extraordinarily efficient manner," comments Warren Buffet, Berkshire's chairman. "We believe there is an excellent possibility for expansion of the customer base in the future."

"This transaction is positive for both Wal-Mart and McLane Company," adds Lee Scott, Wal-Mart president and ceo. "The sale will allow Wal-Mart to focus completely on its core retail business, and it will create expanded business opportunities for McLane Company."

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