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Efforts to Save Ata Textile Mills

Government-appointed receivers are trying to maintain production at the Ata textile mills on Haifa Bay to improve the chances of finding a buyer for the giant textile combine, the largest single employer in the Haifa area.

A Haifa District Court has ordered the Cotton Marketing Board to continue selling Ata raw cotton. The Board has refused so far because of an outstanding debt of nearly $2 million.

Ata, once a showpiece of private industrial enterprise in Israel, with plants on Haifa Bay and in Galilee, went into bankruptcy following the loss of its largest overseas customer. The receivers appointed were given the task of preserving the business and the jobs of its 8,000 employes. Normally, receivers preside over the liquidation of an enterprise to ensure maximum reimbursement of its creditors.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has been looking for a suitable buyer or investment syndicate, so far without success. Ariel Sharon, the Minister of Trade and Industry, has been in New York for the past month pursuing his $50 million libel suit against Time magazine.

Ata’s troubles began more than two years ago when its biggest foreign customer, the Marks and Spencer department store chain in Britain, warned the company that the quality of its products was falling below the chain’s high standards. Ata was given a year to show improvement. Marks and Spencer withdrew its business from Ata over a year ago. Ironically, Marks and Spencers was established and is headed by the Marks and Sieff families whose strong Zionist connections date back to the early years of Dr. Chaim Weizmann’s leadership of the world Zionist movement. They were instrumental in establishing the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot which they continue to support.

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