Who Will Rescue Tafnukim Diapers?

As Amir Paper Products took refuge under court protection from its creditors this week, one investor is prepared to finance the continued operations of the plant that manufacturers Tafnukim diapers, if the government matches his immediate NIS 5 million investment.

Hezzy Nissan, controlling shareholder of Nissan Medical Industries, said this week that he was prepared to inject NIS 5 million, even without a due diligence examination of the kibbutz plant, if the state fund to help businesses in crisis were to add a further NIS 5 million. In the meantime, he could fully investigate the company to consider his future involvement.

Amir Paper Products, together with Kibbutz Amir, were together granted court protection on Tuesday of this week for 60 days. The two have accumulated debts of NIS 270 million; NIS 110 million by the paper products company and NIS 160 million by the kibbutz itself. Oren Gutman was appointed trustee manager of Amir Paper Products and chairman of the kibbutz management council.

Yoav Nir, operations manager of the diaper plant, welcomed Nissan's offer, adding that with NIS 10 million the factory could return to profitability. "We didn't have NIS 10 million because the banks won't give us any further financing," he said. He noted however that injecting funds was a stop-gap and did not solve Amir's debt problems.

In addition to the Tafnukim label, Amir Paper Products produces diapers for other small private labels in Israel and overseas, an area that Nir believes is the future for the plant. It also makes surgical dressings - which is Nissan Medical Industries' major line of activity - as well as diapers for adults, which accounts for some 30 percent of Amir's products.

Nissan believes there would be opportunities for synergy between his company and Amir. The two already cooperate on another two plants in Tiberias and nearby Kibbutz Shamir, producing industrial uniforms and hygiene products. The plants export many of their goods to international companies such as Unilever and Nivea.

Both Nissan and Nir agree that timing is the issue. "If we don't get operations going again in the next few days, we'll lose customers," said Nir yesterday, bemoaning the fact that the plant is not producing given the dire financial straits.

Some 90 diaper plant workers were given their dismissal notices this week, though the local Histadrut representative recommended that they send the pink slips back to the employer in protest. Nir met with Gutman this week and was impressed that the trustee was making every effort to resolve the crisis as speedily as possible.

Sources close to Kibbutz Amir say that for many years Amir Paper Products was the kibbutz's main source of income.