Rexel to buy Commerce Electric

Rexel SA, Paris, has agreed to acquire Commerce Electric Supply Inc., Linthicum, Md., one of the largest remaining independents in the Baltimore area. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The acquisition builds on Rexel's previous acquisition of Branch Electric Supply Co., Upper Marlboro, Md., which it acquired in 2000. If completed as expected, the acquisition of Commerce Electric would give Rexel a stronger foothold in the Baltimore metro market.

Commerce Electric, with 110 employees and a projected 2001 sales budget of $40 million, has 11 locations in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area.

Marc Lessans, president/chief executive officer of Commerce Electric, said he decided to sell the company because the local market had changed with the acquisitions of distributors by large European distributors: Hagemeyer's acquisition of Tristate Electrical Supply; Sonepar SA's acquisition of Lee Electric Co., Baltimore, Md., and Capital Lighting & Supply Inc., Alexandria, Va.; and the Rexel purchase of Branch Electric Supply.

Lessans will stay with the company and will continue to run the Commerce organization, which will be known as Rexel/Commerce.

Rexel is the largest electrical distributor in the world, with 1,800 branches in 30 countries and over $7 billion in worldwide sales. Rexel is now present in 28 states and Canada.

Schneider Electric and Legrand plan to merge

French conglomerate Schneider Electric announced a merger with Legrand, Paris, in a $6.4 billion deal. The proposed acquisition of Legrand by Schneider SA would create one of the largest electrical companies in the world, and the first to offer a basket of products that would include wiring devices, lighting controls, circuit breakers, load centers, voice/data products and industrial automation equipment.

Schneider Electric SA is best known in North America through its Square D, Telemecanique, Merlin Gerin and MGE UPS subsidiaries, and its leading positions in many areas of the distribution equipment market and in some parts of the industrial controls market.

Legrand has made a name for itself in North America with its acquisitions of Pass & Seymour, Wiremold, The Watt Stopper, Ortronics, Slater Electric, Caribe GE Wiring Devices, Power Controls Corp., Sierra Electric, Reiker Enterprises and Tomstar Controls. With last year's acquisition of Wiremold and its 1998 purchase of Ortronics, voice/data products now account for 17 percent of sales. The company has also gained market share in the wiring device market in recent years through its Pass & Seymour business, according to industry sources.

Schneider Chief Executive Henri Lachmann will be chairman of the combined company, Schneider Legrand. It will consist of two operating companies: Schneider Electric Industries, to be chaired by Jean-Paul Jacamon; and Legrand, headed by Francois Grappotte, Legrand's current chief executive.

i2 agrees to purchase Trade Service Corp. and inks deal with MRO Software

Positioning itself as an even larger player in the online purchasing arena, i2 Technologies Inc. struck deals with two companies with major electrical ties.

The Dallas-based i2 announced plans to buy the content divisions of Trade Services Holdings and formed a partnership with MRO Software (formerly PSDI). Through its subsidiary MRO.com, MRO Software provides manufacturers and distributors of industrial supplies with B-to-B management software.

If the agreement with Trade Services Holdings goes through, i2 will acquire San Diego-based Trade Service Corp. and its affiliate ec-Content Inc., and plans to operate the business within i2's Infinite Content division. Trade Services Holdings will retain ownership of Trade Service Publications, as well as an interest in TradePower. Trade Service Systems will be acquired by TradePower at the close of the deal and is not part of the acquisition.

Tony Dubreville, currently president and chief executive officer and a minority shareholder of Trade Service, would become senior vice president of i2 Technologies, in charge of MRO content for i2, once the acquisition is completed.

In its venture with MRO Software, Bedford, Mass., MRO Software and i2 Technologies will team up to offer an end-to-end solution for the direct and strategic maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) materials supply chain. The two companies have signed an agreement to resell each other's offerings and integrate their technologies to create a solution for the strategic MRO market.

Trade Service, owned for many years by the Simpson family, was sold to Boston Ventures Management Inc., a Boston-based private equity group, in late 1999.

Largest wind farm coming to Northwest

Wind energy could help California deal with its ongoing deregulation nightmare. A new wind farm, which is said to become the largest in the world, will generate enough electricity for 70,000 homes in 13 Western states.

A total of 450, 250-foot windmills are being built along the Oregon-Washington border. The project will begin in February and could be completed by Dec. 31.

FPL Energy, a sister company to Florida Power and Light, will build, own and operate the wind farm. PacifiCorp, an Oregon utility, will buy the wind power, combine it with hydroelectric energy and distribute it across the West.

Anixter to return $200 million in Lucent Technologies voice/data inventory

Rocked by a plunging stock price for most of 2000, Lucent Technologies got some more bad news before year-end: A big customer wanted to return $200 million in inventory.

Anixter International Inc., Skokie, Ill., has agreed to return the voice/data inventory to Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, N.J., and Lucent agreed to take back "certain equipment that had previously been sold to certain systems integrators and distributors, but not utilized or passed on to customers due to changes in business strategies and the weakening of the emerging service provider market."

The return includes goods that were both received and returned by Anixter within the fiscal quarter ended Dec. 29, 2000.

Commenting on the situation with Lucent, Bob Grubbs, president and chief executive officer of Anixter said in a press release, "We have had a distribution relationship with Lucent and its predecessor for over 20 years. While the situation of the past few weeks has been unusual, we look forward to the continuation of a working relationship that we believe has been good for both companies."

Anixter also said that while the circumstances that led to the return of inventory to Lucent will affect the level of revenues reported by Anixter in the fourth quarter of 2000, it's not expected to affect the anticipated profits for the period.

Anixter buys some of Anicom's assets Anixter International Inc., Skokie, Ill., agreed to purchase certain inventory and operating assets from the bankruptcy estate of Anicom Inc. The assets being acquired are located in the Detroit market.

"Combined with the recent hiring of several former sales and operations people from Anicom's Detroit location, this puts us in a good position to increase our share in the sixth largest market in the United States," said Robert Grubbs, president and chief executive officer of Anixter International. "We look forward to the opportunity to serve companies that were customers of Anicom's Detroit office. We intend to work aggressively to eliminate the uncertainties and service issues these customers may have faced recently as a result of the circumstances that led to this transaction."

Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.