Palmer & Harvey McLane, the UK's biggest wholesaler, this week bought south west rival T&A Symonds - and declared it was on the acquisition trail to boost its UK market presence. Through the deal, for an undisclosed sum, P&H takes control of a delivered wholesaler with 600 customers, including 500 independent retailers. The sale does not include T&A's retail business Smile Stores, which operates more than 90 shops in the south west. This will continue to be run by the Symonds family with Jeremy Symonds as CEO. P&H chief executive Chris Etherington said the company had bought T&A Symonds after its continuing strategic review of the business revealed gaps in its coverage in the south west. Buying Yeovil-based T&A, which generated a pre-tax profit of £160,000 on sales of £90.2m last year, plugged those gaps, he said. The review had also identified "issues" in other parts of the country, he said, and the delivered wholesaler was looking into further acquisition opportunities. "This acquisition brings us closer to our customers so we can offer a greater frequency of service. Although we have branches in Plymouth and Bristol we had in-fills in the south west. T&A closes this in-fill. We are looking at other opportunities around the country as part of a review of our infrastructure." This is the first major activity from P&H since rival wholesaler Booker's foray into delivered wholesaling following a reverse takeover by Blueheath in May. The deal raises fresh questions over the future of buying group Key Lekkerland, of which T&A is one of just four members. It is unclear how T&A will stay a member of Key Lekkerland while part of P&H. The latter, because of its size - with sales of £3.53bn last year - is a direct rival to the major buying groups. There are already doubts over how long fellow Key Lekkerland member Blueheath will stay involved as it has been swallowed up by Booker - the UK's second-biggest wholesaler with sales of £3.17bn post-merger. Any long-term alliance involving both P&H and Booker is unlikely, such is their rivalry. Key Lekkerland MD John Liptrot insisted it was "business as usual", adding: "T&A remains a member of Key Lekkerland and is continuing to supply goods on Key Lekkerland's behalf." P&H would work with Key Lekkerland to honour its contracts, said Etherington, who added: "We have been talking to them and preliminary discussions have been very positive. T&A will continue to work with Key Lekkerland." Nisa-Today's will continue to provide chilled and frozen goods to Smile Stores and P&H will supply it with ambient products.However, T&A will leave the Today's Group, the wholesale arm of Nisa-Today's. T&A managing director Alan Symonds, who will stay on for nine months as part of a handover, said: "P&H is ideally positioned to build on the customer franchise my team and I have developed over the past 40 years, and to take it to the next stage by offering retailers solutions only available through a business of P&H's scale, especially where c-store retailers are expanding into ranges such as chilled foods." T&A's workforce, sales teams and most senior managers will join P&H.