Exclusive: Florida, Indiana, others probing Sysco, US Foods deal

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:16pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Florida, Indiana and other U.S. states are reviewing food distributor Sysco Corp's proposed deal to buy rival US Foods Inc, offices of state attorneys general said on Thursday.

Sysco said in December that it would buy US Foods for about $3.5 billion from its private equity owners in a deal that would combine the two largest U.S. food distributors and create a company commanding at least a quarter of the $235 billion North American market.

"We are a member of the multistate group that is currently reviewing this merger in coordination with federal agencies," the Florida attorney general's office said in a statement. A spokesman declined further comment.

Indiana said it was also looking at the deal.

"We are aware of the merger and are working with other states as we examine the potential impact in Indiana," said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general's office.

The state attorneys general will work with either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission, both of which review proposed mergers, to ensure the deal complies with antitrust law. The agencies can decide to approve a transaction, file a lawsuit to stop it or require companies to sell assets to win approval.

Sysco, with annual revenue of about $44 billion, is the largest operator in the U.S. food distribution business, with US Foods in the No. 2 spot.

Both companies distribute foods to restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools and other institutions.

US Foods and Sysco both said they had no comment.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Peter Cooney and Steve Orlofsky)