In two separate moves over the past month to expand internationally, W.W. Grainger Inc., Lake Forest, Ill., announced that it will increase its stake in the Japanese firm MonotaRO, and acquire full ownership of its joint venture in India, Asia Pacific Brands India Private Limited, one of India's leading industrial and electrical wholesale distributors.

MonotaRO was created in 2000 as a joint venture between Grainger and Sumitomo to supply maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) supplies in Japan. Grainger plans to boost its stake to 53 percent and become a majority owner of MonotaRO through a $4 million investment.

According to a Grainger press release, MonotaRO has become a major supplier in the Japanese MRO market, the second largest industrial market in the world. MonotaRO offers more than 110,000 products to more than 320,000 customers. In 2008, MonotaRO had revenues of $136 million.

Grainger initially bought a 49.9 percent stake in Asia Pacific Brands in July 2008. In the new deal, Grainger will contribute an estimated $1.2 million to gain full ownership. Late last year, the company wrote down its investment due to the bankruptcy filing of Asia Pacific's largest supplier.

With more than 20 locations and more than 4,000 dealer relationships across India, Mumbai-based Asia Pacific Brands, formerly part of Hagemeyer's stable of international distribution businesses and known as Hagemeyer India Ltd., will go to market under the Grainger brand. In the electrical market the company stocks Panduit, Schneider Electric, APC, Schreder Lighting and Molex.

Bonnie McIntyre, Grainger's vice president for international market development, said over the past six months, Grainger streamlined Asia Pacific's operations, strengthened its management and enhanced its supplier base. “We will continue to make prudent investments in the business to deepen our presence in India's growing economy,” she said.

“This increased investment demonstrates Grainger's commitment to grow its global presence,” said Jim Ryan Grainger's chairman, president and CEO.