The Super-Sol chain is buying a controlling interest in Alef, a formerly rival chain that caters to the ultra-Orthodox sector. Super-Sol, which belongs to Nochi Dankner's IDB group, yesterday advised that it is exercising its option to buy 50% of Alef for NIS 100 million.
Alef runs nine branches, all located in the heart of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. From its establishment in July 2006, it had been be co-owned by Super-Sol and Kol B.I., which belongs to three Haredi partners - Avraham Moshe Margalit, Arie Boim and Yehuda Laniado. At the time of the company's founding, the parties agreed that Super-Sol would have the option to buy out Kol B.I., expiring in July 2008.
The three observant partners also founded the Zol Po supermarket chain as a subsidiary of Clubmarket, which Super-Sol acquired when that chain went bankrupt. Super-Sol now means to launch a new chain brand, to be called "Yesh," incorporating the Zol Po outlets and Alef. Its activity in the ultra-Orthodox sector is managed by Shalom Fisher, an ultra-Orthodox businessman who owns a 20% stake in Super-Sol together with the Bronfman business group.
Fisher was also the driving force behind the establishment of Shefa Shuk, back when he owned a controlling interest in the Blue Square chain.
Sales at Alef have been taking off in recent months, in fact since the rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat declared a boycott of all stores belonging to Dudi Wiessman's Dor-Alon chain three months ago, on the grounds that its AM:PM chain of stores violates the Sabbath. Which it arguably does, as it operates 24/7. Dor Alon owns Blue Square which, in turn, owns Shefa Shuk, which - like Alef - caters to the observant community.
The rabbinical committee did not issue a specific order to shun Shefa Shuk because of disputes in the ultra-Orthodox community. However, the direction was clear: Shefa Shuk has suffered and Alef sales have flourished. Because the price Super-Sol paid to exercise its option was linked to Alef's performance, the boycott of Dor Alon cost Super-Sol an estimated extra NIS 5 million.
Meanwhile, the rabbis will be convening within days to discuss the ramifications of Wiessman selling his businesses that target the ultra-Orthodox community. Naturally, they can't tell Wiessman what to do. But if the ban will persist despite a change of ownership, that would affect the transaction.
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