Increasing its already strong presence in the U.S. utility market, Stuart C. Irby Co., Jackson, Miss., a division of Sonepar USA, announced its intentions to purchase Equity Utility Service Co. Inc., Marietta, Ga., a 42-year-old utility specialist ranked No. 149 on Electrical Wholesaling's Top 200.

The acquisition is effective June 30. Equity Utility Service Co. serves electric utilities in Georgia.

“Equity's company culture is identical to Irby's,” said Michael Wigton, Irby's president. “This acquisition of Equity will allow Irby to fill the notable gap within our geographical footprint.”

The employees of Equity Utility Service will operate under the Equity name as a division of Irby through the end of the year. Rob Parris, president of Equity Utility Service, will continue to serve customers as he takes on a new role as Irby's Georgia operations manager.

Parris said, “Equity has been blessed with some very nice growth over the past several years, and our people have responded with passion and diligence to care for our utility customers in Georgia. There is no doubt that this growth — and some of our strategic initiatives — made us a desirable target for acquisition. The timing feels right to get some new energy behind us to become even more competitive going forward. Not only do we fill a territorial void for Irby but we share many common values that our customers and vendors will be pleased to see.

“My sister, Sue Elder, and I took very seriously the decision to sell our business established 42 years ago by our father, Bob Parris. The Irby people made it clear that our employees would be properly cared for, and that meant everything to us. Some may disagree, but this is still a people business.”

Irby has 875 employees at 58 branches in 21 states and for years has been a major player in the electric utility market in the Southeast. The utility market is also a key business segment for Sonepar USA and accounts for 17 percent of the company's overall sales. It has acquired several other utility specialists over the past few years, including Priester Supply Co. Inc., Arlington, Texas; Burmeister Electric Co., Minneapolis; and High Voltage Testing Laboratories, Fargo, N.D.

Sonepar USA, Philadelphia, has more than 4,600 associates in 12 companies operating in more than 253 branches in 35 states. In 2007, Sonepar USA had $2.9 billion in revenue. Its parent company, Sonepar SA, Paris, is the world's largest privately held electrical distributor. Worldwide, Sonepar employs more than 25,250 employees, with 1,450 branch locations and 2007 annual sales of $15.3 billion.