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Suppliers of the troubled Clubmarket supermarket chain, currently under court protection from its creditors, have banded together and formed an action committee to represent their interests as the largest group of creditors.

Clubmarket filed for court protection against bankruptcy two weeks ago after running up debts of NIS 1.4 billion, most of which was owed to its suppliers. The affected suppliers - food producers, distribution companies, large and small companies and importers - have joined forces on the assumption that together their voices may be heard and their grievances dealt with better than if they acted alone.

Senior sources in the food sector point out that a sale of Clubmarket - the court-appointed trustees have said they are seeking a buyer for the supermarket chain as a going concern - requires the approval of creditors representing at least 25 percent of the company's total debts.

Therefore, by banding together, the suppliers form such a group, with sums owed by Clubmarket greater than one quarter of the company's total debt. Also, any creditors' arrangement must also win the approval of creditors totaling 75 percent of the sums owed, so again this merry band of suppliers will be able to determine Clubmarket's fate.

The action group has elected Roni Kobrosky, president of the Central Soft Drinks Company and also chairman of the Food Industry Association, to be its head.

The troubled chain may still be operating, but industry sources say that shoppers have stayed away. Some sources put sales at Clubmarket branches at only 30 percent of sales before the court protection.

The trustees, Shlomo Nass and Gabi Trablesi, responded yesterday, saying that turnover at the stores was 22 percent higher than the week before. They added that several factors give them confidence that this will continue to rise: the company's retail activities are back to normal; media advertising; the arrangement that permits the use of Clubmarker's Extra-Tav vouchers (up to 20 percent of the value of the purchase) had all helped to draw the shoppers back.