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    Wal-Mart Closes on McLane Sale

    Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway now controls the industry's largest distributor.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Thursday it closed a $1.5-billion deal to sell its distribution subsidiary, McLane Co., and said company sales for May were 10 percent above sales for the same month a year ago.

    Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is in the middle of an aggressive expansion, adding about 250 domestic stores this year alone. The sales increase was tempered by slower growth in stores open at least a year.

    Sales would have shown a 9.4-percent gain for the month had it included McLane's sales, the Associated Press reported.

    Wal-Mart announced May 2 it would sell McLane to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. McLane, based in Temple, Texas, distributes groceries, tobacco and other non-food items. Its customers, in addition to Wal-Mart itself, include convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, mass merchandisers and others.

    McLane had fiscal 2003 trade sales of $14.9 billion; Wal-Mart made $7.2 billion in purchases from McLane in the year. Within the Berkshire transaction was an agreement to sell McLane subsidiary Merit Distribution Services to Swift Transportation Co. of Phoenix, Ariz.

    Wal-Mart said in May that the transactions would dilute earnings by 1 cent per share for 2004 and 2 cents per share in 2005, not including the one-time gain of the sale.

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