Most Small Clubmarket Creditors Approve Deal

More than 80 percent of retailer Clubmarket's small and medium-sized suppliers reportedly voted yesterday in favor of a creditors arrangement. However, members of the Manufacturers Association, including several medium-sized suppliers and all the major suppliers, have not yet voted on the trustees' proposal, and according to their remarks to the press, they don't plan to approve it.

The large suppliers - including 29 merchants who are owed NIS 400 million - have until tomorrow to vote. The heavy-hitters include foodstuffs giants Strauss-Elite, Osem and Tnuva, importer Unilever, Central Bottling (Coca-Cola Israel), beverage makers Jafora-Tabori and Tempo, paper products manufacturer Hogla-Kimberly and Diplomat.

Unilever Israel CEO Motti Keren said yesterday: "We were very surprised by the proposed arrangement. It boasts that major suppliers will get 51 percent of the money owed them. But that number - low in and of itself - is clearly not realistic, and when the dust settles we will have to make do with far less. The unknowns in the proposal far outnumber the knowns. The only clear thing is that suppliers - including small businesses - shoulder the majority of the burden. I will be sorry if the deal doesn't close and Clubmarket goes into receivership, but I am not afraid of that situation and it won't make me change my mind."

Sources close to the negotiations said yesterday that the banks had agreed to share with retailers a great deal of the uncertainty. Food sector sources said talks are still continuing between the banks and the suppliers, aimed at allowing Foodstuffs Association members to vote in favor of the arrangement. Many believe that if the major suppliers persist in not approving the proposed arrangement, trustees Gabriel Trabelsi and Shlomo Nass will leave it up to the courts to decide.