Domino's Gets Hapoalim Dough

Bank Hapoalim yesterday approved a plan for the continued operation of the Domino's pizza chain in the country.

The plan was prepared by attorney Ronen Matari, the official receiver for Domino's Israeli franchisees. Matari said the plan will be presented to the Tel Aviv District Court, which must also approve it, in the next few days.

Matari will need an additional NIS 1 million to keep the chain running for another two to three months. However, Hapoalim is expected to agree to provide this sum, since it has an interest in keeping the chain from collapsing and being sold just yet.

Hapoalim is the principal creditor of Domino's Israeli franchisee, Umani Brandname Foods, holding NIS 16 million of its NIS 20 million debt.

Matari said that an arrangement has also been reached regarding salary payments to Domino's employees, and that this arrangement has been approved by the workers' representatives. A few days ago, the employees announced that they would stop working if they did not receive their November salaries, which come to about NIS 1 million. To pay them, Matari needed a loan from Hapoalim.

Sources affiliated with Domino's said that Matari's plan involves closing one branch of the chain and finding a franchisee for another branch. These steps will result in about 30 of the chain's 600 workers being fired. The plan also calls for selling Umani's Tel Aviv offices.

The idea of selling these offices had originally been included in a recovery plan drafted by Domino's managing director, Assaf Greenberg, and Umani's shareholders, but the sale was delayed by the fact that Domino's call center for orders was located in those offices. The center was finally closed about a month before the chain entered receivership.

Domino's has 25 branches in Israel, of which seven are managed by franchisees. The franchisees owe the chain some NIS 2 million, and Matari recently met with them to discuss how this debt would be repaid.

Once the court has approved Matari's plan for the chain's operation, he will move on to trying to sell it. Unlike Umani, Domino's is debt-free, and Matari hopes to get $4 million for it. Sources affiliated with the chain, however, predicted that the price would be lower.