The Moshav Movement is launching a public campaign against the sale of Tnuva to the state-owned Chinese company Bright Food, the movement said Sunday.
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“Selling Tnuva to a foreign government would mean surrendering the value on which the company was founded,” said Meir Tzur, the movement’s secretary-general. “There’s no way that a company widely seen as a symbol of the state, of settlements and Israeli agriculture can be sold to a foreign government.” Tnuva is Israel’s largest food company.
Tzur’s remarks come as the British buyout fund Apax Partners has been holding talks about selling a controlling stake in Tnuva to the Chinese company. Tnuva’s goods, including cottage cheese and other dairy produce, are among the most popular products on Israeli supermarket shelves.
Apax, Israeli holding company Mivtach Shamir, as well as umbrella organizations of the kibbutzim and moshavim that founded Tnuva, control the food maker. Together, the farm groups hold 23% of Tnuva’s shares.
Tzur said selling Tnuva to Bright Food would mean putting a company responsible for much of Israel’s food in the hands of shareholders answerable to Beijing’s rather than Israel’s needs.
Tzur’s remarks were echoed in a report in the Calcalist financial daily, which stated Tnuva’s kibbutz shareholders had no intention of selling their shares in Tnuva.
“Tnuva can’t exist without the kibbutzim and moshavim. We will keep our stakes in the company,” said Eitan Broshi, secretary general of the Kibbutz Movement, after a long meeting Sunday between the movement and other farm organizations regarding the impending sale.
Broshi said the kibbutz movement would be following the negotiations closely, and demand that the Israeli government safeguard “national interests” such as food supplies and ensuring the economic basis of the kibbutzim and moshavim.
Apax has been seeking a way to complete the sale, which values Tnuva at some 8.8 billion shekels ($2.5 billion), while ensuring some measure of local control over it. Among the options being weighed is to sell a block of Apax shares to Mivtach Shamir and appointing a majority of Israelis to Tnuva’s board of directors.
A Bright Food delegation was in Israel earlier this month for talks with Apax.