Rexel to acquire Branch Group Rexel, Inc., has signed an agreement to buy Branch Group, Inc., and its affiliates, including Branch Electric Supply Co.

The acquisition substantially strengthens Rexel's presence in Virginia and Maryland while opening a new market in Pennsylvania, the company says.

Branch Group, Upper Marlboro, Md., with 530 employees; 30 locations in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; and annual sales of over $235 million, was ranked No. 21 on Electrical Wholesaling's 250 Biggest listing in June 1999. Rexel, with 200 locations and estimated 1998 sales of $1.5 billion, is the fifth largest electrical distributor in the United States, according to EW's 250 Biggest listing.

BuildNet buys NXTrend BuildNet, Inc., Research Triangle Park, N.C., announced its acquisition of NxTrend Technology, Inc., a distribution software vendor based in Colorado Springs, Colo. NxTrend, which makes management systems for distribution companies, will remain in Colorado Springs where it will operate as an independent, wholly-owned subsidiary of BuildNet.

The acquisition will allow BuildNet to integrate the distribution segment of the residential supply chain into its schedule-driven transaction and information model. The company's objective is to make information flow automatically throughout the entire community of companies involved in building a home, from the builder and general contractor to all the subcontractors, suppliers and their manufacturers.

Big Three automakers form Internet venture Detroit's Big Three automobile manufacturers are joining forces in an online purchasing venture that will have the capacity to handle $240 million in annual purchases. The automobile manufacturers are planning to combine their efforts to form an online business-to-business integrated supplier exchange through a single global portal that will create the largest virtual marketplace in the world.

Eventually, this online marketplace could be expanded to encompass other industries. The auto manufacturers believe the venture will slash costs, save time and make operations more efficient for them and tens of thousands of suppliers around the world.

GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler plan to have equal ownership in the new venture, which would operate as a separate business independent of the three automakers.

The new venture will be powered by the Oracle and CommerceOne systems that the Big Three use to manage all areas of their production processes.

Ideal buys SureTest product line Ideal Industries, Inc., Sycamore, Ill., acquired the SureTest product line from Industrial Commercial Electronics, Inc., Tonowanda, N.Y. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The acquisition of SureTest gives Ideal a line of circuit analyzers used by electricians and technicians to diagnose branch circuit quality. Ideal said it plans to immediately merge the acquired product line with its test and measurement division headquartered in Sycamore, Ill.