A&B expects ‘business as usual’ for daily operations

While Alexander & Baldwin Inc. reached agreement this week to acquire Grace Pacific Corp. in a $235 million deal, company officials expect day-to-day operations to be “business as usual.”

“No changes in Grace’s operations and no reductions in workforce are anticipated,” A&B spokeswoman Tran Chinery said. “It should be business as usual.”

Grace Pacific is the state’s largest asphalt paving contractor and one of its largest locally owned construction companies. Since establishing its hot mix asphalt plant and paving operations on Maui in 1988, the Oahu-based company has resurfaced Haleakala Crater Road and completed guardrail and shoulder improvements along Hana Highway, the company’s website says.

Statewide, the construction company employs about 550 people, with 36 on Maui via subsidiary companies Maui Paving and GP Roadway Solutions. The company has one asphalt plant in Puunene and one on Molokai, as well as a quarry on Molokai.

“Given our strong financial performance as an independent, employee-owned entity, we were not actively looking to sell Grace,” company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Hulihee said. “It is doubtful we would have even considered a sale to another company were it not for the respect and confidence we have in A&B and its leadership team and their ability to embrace Grace’s Hawaiian roots and corporate culture.”

A&B is Hawaii’s fourth-largest private landowner with roots in 19th-century sugar plantations. Company officials said that the acquisition of the construction firm will provide additional financial capacity to act on new Hawaii real estate opportunities, as well as pay a modest quarterly cash dividend.

“The addition of Grace to the company will extend our capabilities to encompass infrastructure development and replacement work, for which we see a steady and growing need in Hawaii,” said Stanley Kuriyama, A&B’s chairman and chief executive officer.

The purchase will be made with about 85 percent A&B common stock and 15 percent cash, according to an announcement. A&B will assume about $42 million of Grace Pacific’s debt.

The transaction is expected to be finalized this fall.

Some local contractors may express concern over losing out on paving jobs that A&B will probably now direct toward Grace Pacific, but one leading industry professional sees the merger as a positive step for the community.

“A&B has always been extremely supportive of Maui contractors, and with these resources they can independently run Grace Pacific and keep jobs,” Maui Contractors Association President Sandra Duvauchelle said.

Duvauchelle served as a project manager for A&B properties during the Maui Mall renovation from 1998 to 2000.

“I would think that this would only impact (Maui) for the best, I have faith that A&B will continue to support our local contractors,” she said.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at echao@mauinews.com.