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The decision whether Burger Ranch will be allowed to acquire the assets of Rikamor, the bankrupt franchisee of Burger King, will be further delayed, apparently until mid-August.

Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum yesterday notified the trustee appointed by the court to run Burger King's local operations, Dror Tishman, and Burger King International, that he would not be able to make his decision by August 4, the deadline set by the court.

Strum's staff is currently studying the effect of losing Burger King as a player in Israel on competition.

Industry sources explained that the delay is not significant, since the District Court in Tel Aviv, which has given Rikamor protection against creditors and is to give the final stamp of approval to the acquisition of its assets, is to hear the case only on September 4.

Strum has already okayed Orgad Holdings, which recently signed a franchise agreement with Burger King International, as a buyer for Rikamor's assets.

In the bidding for Rikamor's assets, which include mainly long-term leases for restaurants, Orgad's bid was the second highest, after that made by Burger Ranch. If Strum does not authorize the acquisition of Rikamor's assets by Burger Ranch, Orgad can still go ahead with the deal. It is not yet clear what Orgad will do so if it is not allowed to buy the assets. It can either take the franchise and start a Burger King chain from scratch, or drop the whole project.

Experts in the field have said before that the longer the process takes, the less lucrative the acquisition of Rikamor's assets becomes, since the peak season in the fast-food industry is the summer vacation. By now it is clear that whoever acquires the assets, will not be putting them to use this summer anyway. This was one of the factors that dissuaded the CEO of McDonald's Israel, Omri Padan, from bidding in the first place.