Court appointed trustees for the collapsed Clubmarket supermarket chain have put forward a plan for the company’s shares to be registered and traded on the stock exchange by the end of the year, according to the Haaretz newspaper.
Clubmarket filed for court protection from its creditors last month after accruing debts of 1.4bn (US$313m), owed mostly to its suppliers and four banks, the paper said. The court granted protection until 17 August, and the trustees have since offered the company for sale in the hope of a quick deal. Otherwise, the group faces closure, as Judge Varda Alshech made quite clear: If the owners were not prepared to dig deep into their own pockets to save the company, she would not be encouraged to extend the court’s protection.
At a news conference, the trustees, Shlomo Nass and Gabi Trabelsi, outlined a plan to register Clubmarket as a publicly traded company and to issue shares, as soon as possible, as one of the options. However, Nass said that the preferred solution was “to sell the chain as a single unit rather than in parts.”
The plan for a quick conversion of the supermarket into a publicly traded company would require the approval of Clubmarket’s creditors to convert some of their debts owed into shares in the chain, the managers explained. This assumed that some creditors – many of whom are small suppliers, doubtful about ever seeing their money back – may prefer to hold shares, traded publicly, that they could then sell. The plan also assumes that part of the sums owed to the creditors would be paid in cash from the proceeds of selling the chain.
“In our opinion, despite the situation in which the company finds itself today, for someone who wants to get into the retail market in Israel, here is a rare opportunity,” Nass said. “Whoever understands this sector can make a quick decision. Without mentioning names, I can say that at least one investment bank and a foreign investment fund that checked the plan have said that they are planning to make an offer to buy the chain.”
Running a retail chain is not simple matter, and for this reason the trustees are keen to make a quick sale. Clubmarket is estimated to be losing some 1m shekels each working day. Shoppers may be drifting back to the stores, prompted possibly by heart-rending TV appeals by Clubmarket staffers, but sales are still 20% down from the pre-protection days.
Nass and Trabelsi are giving potential buyers only until 16 August to submit their bids. At the same time, they requested – and received – a week’s extension on the court protection, with the next court hearing scheduled for 25 August, by which time they hope to submit an offer from a serious buyer and ask the court’s approval.
The trustees stressed that it was far better to transfer the ownership of the business to the new owners as soon as possible, rather than have them continue to manage the company until it recovered. “From our point of view,” Nass added, “the buyer can take over the chain on September 1 and enjoy the enhanced sales of the holiday season.”