Exclusive: buying group merger

It was announced yesterday that a merger of the membership of Western Builders Merchants into the h&b Group had been recommended.

Exclusive: buying group merger

The agreement has been reached after “months of discussion” by the respective management teams according to a release issued by the h&b Group.

The statement explained that acquisitions of independent merchants by the nationals, as well as losing members to other buying groups, had meant Western Builders Merchants were looking at ways to secure their future. However, the group were keen to retain the close association with their members.

A merger with h&b Group was identified following initial exploratory talks held late last year between WBM md Richard Jones and h&b Group chairman Peter Buttle.

Richard Jones said of the deal: “The merger brings a golden opportunity to our WBM members, who are prepared to show greater commitment to suppliers. I am really pleased that we’ve been able to reach agreement with h&b Group, as this is clearly the best-fit buying group for our members and the merger will bring them great benefits and allow them to compete with the nationals”.

Peter Buttle agreed, “This will reduce the effects of any loss due to acquisition of h&b members, as well as significantly increasing the buying power for all. We doubled our membership in 2004 and then again in 2005. But both these moves obviously involved smaller numbers.”

However, increasing the membership by such a large number in one go is not without its challenges he said, “Moving to a membership of around 70 companies in a very short timescale will mean initiating some much needed changes to our resources.”

“A newly elected management committee at h&b has been tasked to manage the induction process over the coming weeks. The agreement with WBM has taken a lot of careful negotiation. We needed to ensure all the WBM members were at ease with the commitment to existing product supply agreements that will be needed from them and that our own members appreciated the benefits of the inevitable changes too.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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