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Metro Cash and Carry, the South African company that owns the April cosmetics chain in Israel, has agreed to sell the chain to a Dutch company for an estimated $4-5 million.

The Dutch buyer is jointly owned by the French company Bogart and American investors.

April, which specializes in high-quality cosmetics, controls about 18 percent of this market in Israel. The chain has some 20 branches, and has reported a steady growth in turnover and profitability over the past four years.

Following the sale, Metro Cash and Carry's only holding in Israel will be Net Cash, a food warehousing company. It used to own both the Clubmarket supermarket chain and the Neo-Pharm pharmacy chain, but it sold both in 2001. It has since been looking for a buyer for April, as the cosmetics business does not mesh with Metro's core industry - wholesale food.

Metro has received at least two offers for April in the past, but they were in the vicinity of $2 million, which Metro deemed insufficient.

According to Doron Kashuv, April's chairman, the chain has an annual turnover of some NIS 130 million and no debts. He said the new owner plans to continue investing in the chain and does not plan to fire any workers.

The new owner is also planning other investments in Israel, he said.

April's business plan calls for opening seven small stores (60 to 80 square meters) in outlying areas of the country in 2004-2005. Hitherto, it has focused on larger stores (100 to 150 square meters) in major cities.