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Berman's Bakery, the second largest in Israel, has been sold to the agricultural cooperative Mishkei Harei Yehuda for NIS 350 million.

Yitzhak Berman, the Jerusalem bakery's controlling shareholder, sold all his holdings to the cooperative, which unites agricultural settlements in the Judean Hills region. Berman has apparently been trying to sell out for the last year and a half, but had a hard time finding a buyer willing to meet his price.

The bakery group's revenues are NIS 300 million a year. Various sources said that the privately owned group makes a nice profit, but other industry sources cautioned that while Berman's may be the most profitable bakery in the country, its profits are still not particularly high.

Berman's, the oldest bakery in Israel, was founded in 1875, when Reb Todrus Halevi Berman and his wife, Kreshe, came to Israel from Russia. Five years later, he left the Old City and became the first Jerusalemite to open a store outside the walls, on Jaffa Street. Yitzhak, the fourth generation of the baking family, started working at the bakery in 1965.

The bakery is considered the most technologically advanced in Israel. It produces bread, cakes and other baked goods.

The sale includes the Vadash Bakery in Ramat HaSharon and the Lechem HaAretz Bakery, which specializes in health bread and special cookies. Berman's acquired Lechem HaAretz in 2001, thereby becoming the country's second largest bakery. The sale also includes all of the company's real estate holdings.

The price is considered exceptionally good, especially since it is a difficult time for bakeries. Flour prices have risen steadily in recent months, while bakeries have been unable to raise the price of price-controlled breads accordingly, and this has hurt their bottom line.

Mishkei Harei Yehuda was founded in 1950 as a regional purchasing organization for agricultural communities in the Jerusalem Corridor region. Today, it includes 18 agricultural settlements, kibbutzim and moshavim - not only from the Jerusalem Corridor, but also from the Dead Sea area, the Etzion Bloc and the Jordan Valley. The money for the purchase will apparently come from the sale of Tnuva shares.