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    Israeli Group Nears Deal with Fas Mart

    A Tel Aviv investment firm primed to become the third Israeli outfit to take over an American convenience store chain.

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Another Israeli company is primed to enter the U.S. convenience store business.

    With Delek Energy and Alon USA gaining footholds in the last year, GPM Investments LLC is days away from taking ownership of bankrupt Fas Mart Convenience Stores Inc., a three-state, 169-unit chain based in Richmond, CSNews Online has learned.

    The investors, whose nearly $50-million bid was the one preferred by bankruptcy trustee Keith Phillips over other sealed bids, are led by Tel Aviv-based Marlaz Financial Group, one of Israel's largest public development, construction and holding firms.

    Traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the 20-year-old company is controlled by real-estate magnate Mordechai Yona and a group of investors, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

    Marlaz owns, through a partnership, a controlling stake of the New Central Bus Station Co. in Tel Aviv, which runs the largest bus station in the world and contains a shopping mall, commercial and office premises and about 550 retail stores.

    The Bankruptcy Court is scheduled on Monday to hear the trustee's recommendation and is expected to approve the sale. It was not known which other bidders vied for the once vibrant c-store chain that had risen from a modest 13-store outfit in the early 1990s to a highly competitive Top 100 c-store chain.

    GPM's $49-million bid includes $39 million for assets and $10 million for inventory, CSNews Online reported last month. Had another bidder been selected, GPM would have received a $1.25-million breakup fee.

    After soaring in store count, Fas Mart struggled last year amid a stagnant economy and mismanagement. Its demise climaxed earlier this year when Owais Dagra, the chain's chairman, president and CEO, resigned. The operation was then assumed by a bankruptcy court trustee. Dagra has since been accused by a bankruptcy examiner of siphoning off millions of dollars.

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