Ten Parties Express Interest in Buying Clubmarket Chain

Six of the contenders have already visited the information center, and five of them have been publicly identified.

More than 10 interested parties have purchased forms for the tender to purchase ailing supermarket chain Clubmarket. Six of the contenders have already visited the information center, and five of them have been publicly identified. They include the two largest chains, Supersol and Blue Square Israel; Rami Levy, who owns Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma; Shlomo Rodev, owner of Israel Cold Storage and Supply; and the American real estate group Sheetrit, in partnership with Arik Elkayam, one of the owners of French company Elkain, which manages the Premier Club brand for Clubmarket.

Each bidder laid down NIS 15,000, which means the troubled supermarket has already bagged NIS 150,000. The company is under temporary court protection from its creditors after acrruing debts of some NIS 1.3 billion.

Market sources fear the minor independents won't be able to match the bids of the big chains. The assumption is that the major chains wouldn't be required to invest in marketing campaigns, and that it would be worth it for them to pay a premium to knock out the competition.

Likewise, the major chains would be able to meet the demands of workers to maintain their employment through a collective bargaining agreement. David Weissman, Blue Square chair, said as much in a letter he sent to Clubmarket's trustees a few days ago, and Supersol apparently made a decision to the same effect in its recent board meeting.

Clubmarket trustees said that a proposal they raised last week for creditors to acquire the chain and receive shares in return for debt piqued interest. The trusties presented a plan in which Clubmarket would be able to reach equity of NIS 1 billion. "Clubmarket has debts of NIS 1.3 billion and is short NIS 500 million in cash," said court-appointed trustee Gabriel Trebelsi. "If all the debt was converted into shares, equity would reach NIS 800 million. It would be a company free of debt and, with capital injected by the new owners, it would reach equity of more than a billion shekels."

According to fellow trustee Shlomo Nass, an IPO could be implemented under a special law for companies dealing with creditors. The law provides these companies an expedited process to register for the market, without issuing a prospectus. This allows creditors to recover some of the debt by receiving negotiable stocks or bonds. Trebelsi and Nass said, however, that the proceeds from the floation would be mostly or entirely designated to pay the company's creditors.