(March 28, 2:18 p.m., PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) Performance Food Group Co. has moved a step closer to a $1.3 billion buyout.

The company said in a news release that the waiting period required under antitrust law expired at midnight March 24. The Richmond, Va.-based foodservice distributor agreed in January to be acquired by an affiliate of asset-management company The Blackstone Group, New York, and private equity firm Wellspring Capital Management, New York.

A spokeswoman for PFG could not be reached for comment.

Under terms of the agreement, PFG will be merged with Denver-based foodservice distributor Vistar Corp., which is controlled by Blackstone and Wellspring. The foodservice companies both will maintain their headquarters but will operate under the name Performance Food Group.

The deal, which is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter, is subject to shareholder approval. PFG’s stock will be de-listed when the deal is completed.

On March 28, PFG shares were trading at $32.95. That was near the stock’s 52-week high of $35.88 and well above its 52-week low of $23.04.

The company announced Feb. 26 that its fourth-quarter net sales were $1.6 billion, up 10.3% from the year-ago period. Net earnings were $15.1 million, while net earnings per share were 43 cents.

For the year, net sales were $6.3 billion, up 8.2% from 2006. Net earnings were $51.1 million, or $1.45 per share.

PFG is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings May 6, and the company’s annual shareholder meeting is set for May 14.

Meanwhile, Blackstone’s stock has tumbled since its initial public offering last June. Shares have fallen from $38 to $15.67 on March 28 because of the credit crunch and a weak housing market. The company reported that its real estate business generated fourth-quarter revenues of $113.5 million, down 75% from the same period in 2006.

Blackstone, however, reported it had a record $102.4 billion in its asset management business at year’s end, up 47% from 2006.