Israeli Discount Supermarket King Eyes Nine New Pharm Stores Being Sold in Antitrust Deal

Regulator says nine outlets must be sold if Super-Sol is to buy chain

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Rami Levy, founder and chief executive officer of Rami Levy Chain Stores Hashikma Marketing 2006 Ltd., Israel's largest discount food retailer, sits on a row of shopping carts outside a Rami Levy Supermarket in Jerusalem, Israel on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014.
Rami Levy.Credit: Bloomberg

Rami Levy, the discount supermarket king, said on Wednesday he wanted to buy the nine New Pharm stores whose sale was a condition for the chain being acquired by grocery chain Super-Sol.

In an interview with TheMarker, Levy said he wanted the nine stores as the basis for a new, nationwide discount drugstore chain.

His remarks came hours after the Antitrust Authority announced its conditions for clearing Super-Sol’s acquisition of the chain from Hamashbir 365 Holdings. They include Super-Sol selling one supermarket branch and Hamashbir selling nine New Pharm stores to a single buyer, in the hope the new owner will form a rival chain.

The agency said the nine stores must be sold for Super-Sol could complete its purchase of New Pharm, which has around 65 stores, for 130 million shekels ($36.6 million). In theory, Hamashbir should find the buyer, but a source said Super-Sol was looking for potential buyers.

Levy was upset that Super-Sol, Israel’s biggest supermarket chain, would be permitted to acquire the drugstore chain.

“It’s illogical that they let Super-Sol be a partner with New Pharm in the sale process,” Levy said. “They know I’m a competitor,” and that Super-Sol won’t want me to buy the New Pharm stores and compete with it in the drugstore industry as well, he said.

Sources said Super-Sol had received expressions of interest in the nine stores from drugstore and supermarket operators. They include Good Pharm, a new chain where all goods sell for 10 shekels each, TheMarker has learned.

Levy said he had approached Hamashbir controlling shareholder Rami Shavit about buying the nine stores, as part of his strategy of expanding into new segments. He estimated that about 70% of the products carried by New Pharm stores are also sold in his supermarkets, which would give him strong bargaining power with suppliers.

Super-Sol, the Good Pharm and the Antitrust Authority were unavailable for comment at press time.