We Bid With the Aim of Winning, Say Supersol Chiefs

Supersol's offer for Clubmarket yesterday - a whopping NIS 825 million plus more for stocks - took many by surprise.

Supersol's offer for Clubmarket yesterday - a whopping NIS 825 million plus more for stocks - took many by surprise.

"Here was an opportunity laid out in front of us to accelerate long term development," explained Avraham Bigger, Supersol's chairman, in an interview with Haaretz. "It's a process of building long-term value. It will contribute enormously to the chain's customers, its workers and its shareholders."

Effie Rosenhaus, Supersol CEO, concurred, explaining that the chain will take Clubmarket's stores into the Supersol family "Supersol Deal, Supersol Big, Supersol Shely and the ultra-Orthodox chain. We intend to run all Clubmarket branches from the first day we receive management of the chain."

But as for the future? Well, after the first day, Rosenhaus says, they will reexamine every store. "We still don't know Clubmarket well. We hope we can maximize the number of branches we can operate, but this won't be a one-day job. We believe that by the end of 2006, the chain will be complete, running totally under the Supersol general outlook."

Wasn't your price on the high side? It beat the other bids by NIS 300-400 million.

Rosenhaus: "We set the price according to how we saw it, and with the aim of being the winning bid. Our valuations - by two separate assessors - set much higher prices than the bid we made. We think we've made a good deal."

Most of Clubmarket's stores are rented so what have you actually bought?

"That's a good question. First of all we've bought retail spaces. We've bought a going business with sales of NIS 3 billion a year, with no debt, with accumulated losses of NIS 500-600 million. About the brand name we have bought, it's a little early to tell. It's reasonable to assume we will keep the Zol Po brand for the ultra-Orthodox sector."

What will you do about the Extra Tav shopping vouchers?

Bigger: "According to the [court-appointed] trustee managers' decision, the vouchers are valid for up to 20 percent of a purchase. I still don't know what will be in the future, but the situation won't be worse than the current arrangement."

How did you react when you heard Clubmarket filed for court protection?

Rosenhaus: "For at least a year and a half we had heard rumors that Clubmarket was in trouble. When the day came that it fell, we understood that the situation was serious. From that moment we made sure we were ready in the event it came up for sale, because we thought that is what would happen."

Dedi Borovich [owner of Clubmarket] said in one of his interviews `I stood in the window and yelled `Who wants to buy Clubmarket' and no one came. Did you check the possibility of buying the chain beforehand?

Bigger: "Apparently he wasn't standing at our window. We hadn't checked it out because it really wasn't an issue at the time."

Eight years ago Supersol bought Shekem. The deal was a failure and all its branches were closed. Do you not fear that the same could happen here?

Rosenhaus: "We checked the matter and there is no similarity between the current deal and the Shekem one, which happened in a completely different market and under completely different conditions. Shekem wasn't a food retailer, its stores were three-storied and not suitable to Supersol. Buying Clubmarket is a completely different kettle of fish."