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While its staffers fume over not being paid their wages for September, some 13 parties have lined up expressing interest in buying Israel Military Industries (IMI).

The deadline for submitting expressions of interest in the state-owned defense company was last weekend, and 13 envelopes were delivered. However, according to past experience, the Finance Ministry expects that only two parties will actually bid for the firm.

IMI is in financial straits, and has so far not paid wages for September to its 2,900 staffers. The workers, who last week threatened a public sector strike, are today expected to receive half the wages owed. IMI management has called for further government injections of cash, but the treasury has conditioned further support on wage reductions and dismissals, which IMI staffers have rejected.

As for the sale of the company, market analysts value IMI at some $200-250 million. Among the parties expressing interest are thought to be a consortium led by businessman Meir Shamir, together with an American company and the Elul Group, headed by David Kolitz. A former deputy chief of staff, Gaby Ashkenazi, is also expected to be part of this group.

Another possible contender for buying IMI is a group that includes Mickey Federmann, together with the Soltam group, controlled by Roni Naftali. Clal Industries of the IDB group, controlled by Nochi Dankner, is also thought to be among those interested.

While management at IMI welcomed the heavy interest expressed in the company's sale, union leaders and Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert will be meeting tonight to try and reach a solution to the company's current industrial unrest. Histadrut labor federation chief MK Amir Peretz has demanded that, as a state-owned company, IMI ought to set an example and not hold back wages. Staff representatives refuse to meet management until their wages have been paid in full.