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Businessman Eli Lahav has leased 2,000 square meters in Netanya's Sharon mall to open the second branch of food retailer Hutzot Hamifratz. The first 1,400-square-meter branch is located in an Astrom-owned structure in Holon.

Real estate sector sources reported that Lahav is negotiating leases on other sites. Lahav confirmed the Sharon mall deal and on other branches said, "First I will act, then I will speak."

Lahav has racked up retail achievements in the past, selling or leasing prior ventures to major foodstuffs retailers Blue Square and Supersol.

The space Lahav has taken over in Netanya is being vacated by a branch of Blue Square's Coop supermarket chain, one of several mall branches that Blue Square is closing as high rental fees render operations unprofitable. Supersol's 18-branch downsizing move announced this week includes several mall locations.

Sources in the real estate sector said the major chains will face new competition as they close these branches and the locations are taken over by private discount chains.

Sharon mall CEO Shmuel Ben Moshe said Blue Square closed the branch in February without any prior negotiation. He said it was important to him to rent the space to a food retailer as there is local demand for a supermarket "anchor."