24 OCTOBER 2001

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Price Club’s Petrich is no con man

By Ray Abdilla

Price Club Director Mr Victor Zammit quashed a rumour that Mr Giorgio Petrich, Novacom Director, is a con man yesterday. Several anonymous telephone calls at The Malta Financial and Business Times alleged that the Italian is not coming back to Malta and that his two companies in Italy were put into liquidation.

Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times Mr Zammit said that he had spoken to Mr Petrich practically everyday including yesterday.

"Mr Petrich promised me that he is coming to Malta tomorrow (Wednesday) to sort things out. In fact he is coming to give bank guarantees so that the deal can be sealed.

"The auditors at Pricewaterhouse have told us more than once that if the demands are not met, the company will be put into liquidation. But we already know that. I think all this pressure is originating because other pressures are mounting from other camps," Mr Zammit said.

After having long talks with Bank Managers and other top people a fortnight ago, Italian Company Novacom together with the Price Club Group said that they were discussing the call for vacancies to be issued for the Supermarket chain.

The supermarket chain is expected to employ around 400 people and this move is expected to give a massive boost to the economy. The majority of workers who worked at the Price have found a new job, mainly at other Supermarket Chains such as the Tower Supermarket and Smart.

The Italian company is only waiting for the local banks to approve the deal, and in fact all parties are confident that this will happen today with the presence of Mr Petrich.

People close to the banking sector say that the offer from the Italian company is a very serious deal and the fact that that Novacom will fork out money for the creditors is an advantage.

Mr Giorgio Petrich who was in Malta a fortnight ago to seal other important deals in order to re-open the company, is expected to stay in Malta for about three to four days.

The Italian Company has agreed to buy 84 per cent stake of the company and after discussions with creditors and lawyers. Meanwhile the company is waiting for the Government to issue a legal notice about the deal. This legal notice is expected to be issued when the local banks will give the nod to the deal.

Harsh criticism from the GRTU and Labour Party leader Dr Alfred Sant who both oppose the deal is likely to intensify during the coming days. The GRTU and Dr Sant believes that foreign intervention was rated favourable in the tourist industry, in export and even in updating ourselves with new technology but it is definitely not required in the retailing or whole-sailing market.

As reported last week in The Malta Financial and Business Times 195 out of the 200 creditors had agreed with the deal.

Since the beginning of Price Club's fiscal turmoil, consultants of both the company and its creditors have indicated that what the chain needed was an injection of fresh capital. However, as the capital required could not be found from Maltese investors, the company began exploring various options that were presented from foreign companies.

The chain, in its heyday, had boasted one of Malta's highest turnovers - some Lm22 million per annum.

The chain's demise has been blamed on bad financing, management, and sway in retailing policy, which created anomalies in the supply chain.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt