PIA Merchandising to Merge With SPAR Today


PIA Merchandising Services Inc.'s shareholders Thursday approved the company's merger with competitor SPAR Cos., creating one of the nation's largest marketing and retail merchandising support operations.

Beginning today, PIA will become part of SPAR Group Inc. The combined company's stock will trade on the Nasdaq market under the symbol SGRP. It will be headquartered in Tarrytown, N.Y., where SPAR has been based.

To achieve the merger, PIA issued about 12.8 million shares of its stock to SPAR Cos. stockholders, giving SPAR a 69% stake in the combined company. At PIA's closing price Thursday, the deal's value was $64 million.

PIA's stock closed Thursday at $5, up 25 cents. The companies announced the completion of the merger after U.S. markets closed.

A "few hundred" employees, most from PIA, will be laid off across the nation over the next three to six months as a result of the merger, Chief Financial Officer Cathy Wood said. But very few of PIA's employees at the former Irvine headquarters will lose jobs, she said. Combined, SPAR and PIA have a work force of between 3,500 and 4,000 employees.

Robert G. Brown, chairman, chief executive and president of SPAR, retains those titles with the merged company. Terry R. Peets, PIA's former president and chief executive, is now SPAR's vice chairman.

The combined sales of the two companies was about $197 million last year.

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