Court to Hold Hearing on Fate of Mega Supermarkets

Court may approve sale of supermarket chain to competitor for 275 million shekels.

Ofer Vaknin

Central District Court Judge Ilan Shiloh will hold a hearing this morning on a request by court-appointed trustees to approve the sale of the financially-troubled Mega supermarket chain to a competitor, Yenot Bitan, for a sum of at least 275 million shekels ($73 million), not including inventory, which is to be sold separately and is thought to be worth about 130 million shekels.

Shiloh has summoned officials from the Antitrust Commission to appear at today’s hearing, raising the prospect that he will seek their testimony on their reasons for the commission’s preliminary disqualification of a bid by the Rami Levy supermarket chain for Mega, which historically was the country’s second-largest food retailer. Levy’s revised bid of 322 million shekels is 47 million shekels higher than Yenot Bitan’s.

A major focus of the hearing will be why the Antitrust Commission expressed preliminary opposition to Rami Levy’s purchase of Mega. Rami Levy stores have turnover of 4 billion shekels from 34 branches, while Yenot Bitan has 3.3 billion shekels in turnover from 71 store locations.

The judge will also have to make a decision in principle on whether to reopen the bidding process for Mega, soliciting sweetened offers from the current bidders, or even perhaps from new bidders. In addition to the bid from Nahum Bitan, owner of Yenot Bitan, bids were submitted by Rami Levy supermarkets, Tiv Ta’am supermarkets, an investor group organized by former cabinet minister Shalom Simhon, by the Bikurei Sadeh firm and by Israeli-German businessman Moti Ben-Moshe, who is due to acquire control of Blue Square Israel, the former parent of Mega.

The trustees object to conducting the bidding for Mega in Shiloh’s courtroom out of concern it would harm those who have submitted the best bids, as well as for practical reasons, the trustees having stabilized Mega’s operations and not wanting to drag the process out.