This is your last chance to buy a supermarket chain, going relatively cheap, if you don't mind the baggage of debts and a slurry of disgruntled creditors and suppliers.
Offers for Clubmarket, the third-largest supermarket chain in the country which is currently under court protection from bankruptcy, must be submitted no later than 5 P.M. tomorrow afternoon. Names of potential buyers have been floated recently in the media, but no one is sure how many will materialize into solid offers.
Meanwhile, the court-appointed trustee managers, attorney Shlomo Nass and CPA Gabi Trabelsi, are out to convince the market that the buy is a good one.
But won't the large chains - Blue Square and Supersol - put up the highest offers anyway?
Nass: "The price is the determining factor, but it also depends on the structure of the bid. The antitrust commissioner wants to see a big difference between their bids and others.'"
Trabelsi: "If the gap is wide, then it goes to the large chains."
What's a big price gap? $20 million.
Nass: "If the gap is around NIS 100 million [$20 million] then the antitrust commission and the suppliers will prefer other buyers. The chain will be sold to one of the large chains only if they bid NIS 200 million more than the other bidders."
Trabelsi: "I think the chains also know this."
What about the workers?
Trablesi: "This is a very important component, because at the end of the day there will be workers and one needs to come to an arrangement regarding their employment. I believe that whoever buys the chain understands that the staff has to be cultivated. The large chains, as far as I have read in the papers, are prepared to employ them according to their collective work agreements. Most of the Clubmarket workers - 2,700 out of 3,500 - are employed in the collective arrangement. How many will keep their jobs depends on the number of branches that will close."
How many offers will you get?
Nass: "Ten groups purchased the forms, the names of some were reported. There are some seriously interested parties whose names were not reported ... But how many bids will actually come in is hard to know. There is a lot of disinformation. There's no point in guessing at the moment. I expect every group that checked the offer will submit a bid. Remember that there is a definite priority to sell in one go and that's also the interest of the investor. But the tender does allow for bids for the subsidiary chains, and I imagine there'll be those bids, too."
What will the process be?
Trabelsi: "After we open the envelopes, we'll be all the wiser. Then we'll know if there will be a further bidding round or not. But on August 23, we will submit a signed contract to the court and we will ask for its approval. There is no time for much messing around."
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