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A large group of fish farmers, including Kfar Ruppin Fisheries and Bay Fisheries, are exploring the possibility of buying Tnuva's holding in Tnuva Fisheries, known as Tnu-Dag, Haaretz has learned. American Jewish businessman Ron Lauder, whose local business interests include Channel 10 and JCS Studios, has been a shareholder of Kfar Ruppin Fisheries for the past two years. Tnu-Dag is 72 percent held by the Tnuva dairy cooperative and Tirat Zvi.

As part of its development of the fishery trade, Tnu-Dag several years ago set up fishmonger counters at Mega supermarket stores, selling its fresh fish. However, the venture was not successful, and the counters were closed in 2002. The venture lost almost NIS 5 million.

Tnuva contends that its fish subsidiary is breaking even today and that the cooperative is prepared to sell its stake, as fish are not the heart of the company's activities. Sources close to Kfar Ruppin confirmed that Tnuva had approached them as part of its strategy to divest from the trade.

Up to five years ago, Tnuva was responsible for marketing produce of the Fish Farmers Association, and the cooperative's activities accounted for 80 percent of all fish sold in Israel. However, when the Fish Farmers Association shut up shop, Tnuva set up its own fish marketing arm, which was the precursor of Tnu-Dag.

Tnu-Dag has no connection to Dagei Tnuva, which markets Tnuva's fish salads, prepared at the company's Yarmin plant in Beit Shemesh.

Tnuva commented yesterday, "Tnu-Dag is a joint venture by the Tnuva company and the other owners of the group incorporated under the company name Dagei Ha'emek. For many months now, there have been attempts by kibbutzim that farm fish to organize themselves and to operate in the marketing aspect. Tnuva will give help these processes as much as it can without harming the joint activities."

Sources close to Lauder said that he "does not comment on contacts before their completion - whether they exist or not."