JP Foodservice to buy Pa. distributor

THE BALTIMORE SUN

JP Foodservice Inc. of Columbia announced yesterday a tentative agreement to buy food service distributor Tri River Foods Inc. of Bethel Park, Pa.

Terms were not disclosed, but JP said the purchase will be combination of cash and stock, pending a final purchase agreement, which is expected within 60 days, according to Lewis Hay III, JP senior vice president and chief financial officer.

The acquisition is not expected to bring new jobs to Maryland, nor are any "significant changes" foreseen in the Pennsylvania operation, Mr. Hay said. Tri River would be JP's first acquisition since the Maryland food distributor went public in November 1994.

Tri River, a family-owned business with about 45 employees, generated $16 million in revenue in fiscal 1994. JP's revenue was $1.029 billion over the same period. It employs 2,300 people, including about 400 in Maryland.

"Obviously, at $16 million, (Tri River) is not going to represent a doubling of the company's size, but at the same time, we view it as important in the Pittsburgh market," Mr. Hay said.

Tri River is also intended to strengthen JP's position in upscale dining, including restaurants, hotels and country clubs, and in the health care market, including hospitals and nursing homes.

More JP deals are expected.

"Acquisitions are a central component of our strategy, and we have been talking to a number of candidates," Mr. Hay said.

Tri River, mainly serving a 50-mile radius of Pittsburgh, specializes in custom-cut meats, such as steaks, chicken and veal, as well as frozen seafood and other canned, dry and frozen food products.

JP, the sixth largest broad-line food distributor in the United States with about 1 percent of the national market, was formed in 1989 in a management buyout of a former Sara Lee Corp. division for $317 million. Sara Lee still owns about 39 percent of the company.

JP distributes food and related products to restaurants and other food service establishments in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern and Northeastern regions of the United States. Customers include Boston's Fenway Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and independent and chain businesses that include Perkins Family Restaurants, Subway, Canteen Food and Vending and Morrison's Restaurants.

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