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  • HE Butt Grocery Co. has for the first time reached the “top 10” list of largest private companies in the US, published annually by Forbes.

    HEB’s 2001 revenues increased by 10.4 percent to $9.9 billion, the best growth rate of all the companies that made the top 10.

    The Forbes list tracks U.S.-headquartered private companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more and in excess of 100 employees.

    Other food related companies on the list are the Mars candy company, which has reached the third position, and Publix, which remains at number five.

  • It was a good day for Ahold, as it announced a deal to sell its 65-unit De Tuinen drugstores in the Netherlands to U.S.-based NBTY for the equivalent of $16.6 million (US).

    In addition, Ahold division U.S. Foodservice announced that it won a five year $4 billion (US) contract with Compass Group North America, with half of it being completely new business that will bolster the company’s bottom line.

    Faced with profit warnings, Ahold management has declared its intention to divest non-core businesses and focus on core businesses. So these two announcements sound like they are right on strategy…

  • In a high profile piece this morning (color picture on page one), The New York Times reports that a Pennsylvania poultry plant had persistent sanitation problems that could have fostered the deadly bacteria listeria, an outbreak of which has killed eight people since July. The plant is one of two under investigation.

    However, according to the NYT, a federal inspector says that the government had not enforced sanitation regulations because of confusion and indecision about what it is allowed to do.

    The inspector says that “as health authorities issued the first alerts about the outbreak in late August, he and a supervisor recommended that top regional inspection officials consider forcing the Wampler plant to close for repairs. But, he said, little was done until six weeks later.”

    Investigations into the delay are being conducted both by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and at the Congressional level.

  • reports that Carrefour CEO Daniel Bernard says that the company will pursue an increase in same-store sales, organic development through store openings and enlargements, and acquisitions of individual outlets and small chains, in an effort in achieve higher sales growth in 2003. However, Bernard ruled out any major acquisitions in the near future.

  • When Schering-Plough's allergy drug Claritin goes on sale OTC this week, its price is expected to drop by as much as 76 percent, according to Reuters. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Claritin for OTC sale just last month.

    Claritin in its prescription form generated annual sales of about $3 billion.

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