Court awards Agrexco to Bickel and Lamdan

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Alshech on Tuesday ruled Agrexco will be sold as going concern to flower growers Gideon Bickel, Chen Lamdan.

Cantaloupe, melons_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Cantaloupe, melons_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Alshech on Tuesday ruled Agrexco will be sold as a going concern to flower growers Gideon Bickel and Chen Lamdan. The announcement came after months in which Agrexco trustee Shlomo Nass tried to find a buyer for the fresh-produce exporter, which is in liquidation proceedings. Bickel’s and Lamdan’s offer was the higher of two remaining offers for the company.
Agrexco’s liquidators, Amit Lederman and Evyatar Kramer, presented the court with the final offers on Monday. Bickel Group Export and Trade Ltd. and Lamdan-controlled Orian SM Ltd. offered NIS 17.6 million, including NIS 10m. to be paid immediately and the balance over three years. They also undertook to employ 30 of Agrexco’s 100 employees. The Flower Board of Israel offered NIS 17m., including NIS 3m. to be paid immediately and the balance over four years, and to hire 60 to 80 employees.
Agrexco had 475 employees, including 332 in Israel, when it collapsed under the weight of its 110-million-euro debt, including 30 million euros to bondholders. It lost 33 million euros in 2010. The company obtained a stay in proceedings in June and went into liquidation in September. Agrexco creditors include Ofer Holdings Group, to which it owes more than 60 million euros for the lease of two refrigeration ships.
The government owns 30.3 percent of Agrexco and has a majority on its board of directors. The Plants Production and Marketing Board, which owns 57%, is controlled by the Finance Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry, basically rendering it another branch of the government. Tnuva Food Industries Ltd. owns 11%.
Last year, the government planned to float Agrexco on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and Kesselman and Kesselman pwc Israel valued the company at 110 million euros. The company exports fresh produce under the Alesia and Carmel brands from 2,000 farmers in Israel to 2,500 customers in 80 countries.
Agrexco was a government monopoly for fresh produce exports (except for citrus) when it was founded in 1956 and later expanded into flower exports. Bickel founded Bickel Flowers in 1976, breaking Agrexco’s monopoly, following his successful petition to the High Court of Justice against Agrexco.