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H&L merges with Rapid & Sheffield
published: Sunday | September 14, 2003


Wehby, left, and Facey

HARDWARE & Lumber Limited and its subsidiaries including H&L True Value and H&L Agri-Marine Limited have merged with Rapid & Sheffield Company Limited and Agro-Grace Limited, according to John Mahfood, chief operating officer of Grace, Kennedy's Retail and Trading Division.

The agreement was signed by Don Wehby and John Mahfood on behalf of Grace, Kennedy and Maurice Facey and Bryan Ewen representing Hardware & Lumber earlier this month.

The new entity will be the largest wholesaler and retailer of hardware and home improvement and agricultural products in Jamaica and will command sales in excess of $4 billion annually with profits estimated at $200 million.

TWO YEARS OF NEGOTIATIONS

"The agreement is the culmination of over two years of work and negotiations, " said Mr Mahfood. "It is expected that this business will operate with significantly greater efficiency, provide a better return for all our stakeholders, have a strong market position and will be better positioned to compete locally and against any new foreign-based competition which may enter this market."

Under the agreement H&L will remain a publicly listed company on the Jamaica Stock Exchange with Grace, Kennedy holding 67 per cent of the shares, Pan-Jam 25 per cent and minority shareholders the remaining eight per cent. In keeping with the requirements of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, at the end of 30 days Grace, Kennedy will make an offer to all the minority shareholders to purchase their shares at a price of $9.50 per share. "It is our wish, however, to retain as many of the minority shareholders as possible," said Mr. Mahfood.

HIGHLY RESPECTED TEAM

The company will benefit from the experience of a team of highly respected businessmen. The board of directors will comprise Douglas Orane serving as chairman, along with Richard Byles, Bryan Ewen, Don Wehby, Gordon Shirley, John Mahfood and Erwin Burton. John Mahfood will serve as chief executive officer and it is expected that the existing general managers and managing directors will continue to play a major role in its management.

"The various locations, 20 islandwide, will continue in operation for the time being, Mr. Mahfood said.

A number of objectives have been set for the next 12 months, he said. These include rationalising the distribution centre for the hardware and agriculture business and completion of the new Rapid & Sheffield Do-It-Best store in Montego Bay.

Construction of a new Rapid & Sheffield Do-It-Best Store in Ocho Rios, implementation of a new Information Technology system and the selection of a new strategic partner, are also among the objectives.

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