(Nov. 25) CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., looking to expand its European distribution network, has acquired Poland-based distributor Expans.

The Coral Gables-based company did not disclose financial details about the transaction.

Expans has several distribution facilities in Poland, which, along with nine other eastern European nations, will join the European Union in 2004.

Fresh Del Monte already has distribution operations in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

In a press release Nov. 21, Fresh Del Monte said Expans, which markets a range of produce, including bananas, citrus, tomatoes and grapes, had sales of about $110 million in 2002.

Fresh Del Monte reported $2.09 billion in sales in 2002.

Fresh Del Monte added that the acquisition also would allow it to export fresh vegetables from Poland to its distribution facilities and fresh-cut operations in Britain and Northern Europe.

“Acquiring Expans represents a strategic move to position Del Monte as a leading global brand in Poland before it joins the European Community in May,” Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, chairman and chief executive of Fresh Del Monte, said in the news release.

The acquisition makes sense for Fresh Del Monte on several fronts, said Clare Wenner, analyst for Euro PA, Cambridgeshire, England.

“Having a presence there is important, not only in the short term, while there is still an import licensing arrangement,” she said. “Whether it’s the distributor in Poland or Del Monte that has the license, Fresh Del Monte will want control.”

Fresh Del Monte also appears to be making a move to solidify its market share in the longer term, Wenner added.

“As you move toward a tariff-only market, with no import quotas, with a single tariff across the EU, your volume presence in the whole EU 25 (nations) is going to become really, really important in terms of commercial strength,” she said. “You have to have as big a sphere of influence as you can. They appear to be going in that direction.”