Shari Arison, heiress, businesswoman and philanthropist, has signed an agreement with North American investors to sell 49% of her shares in Bank Hapoalim, Arison Holdings announced on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Sunday.
Arison Holdings, a private company that owns a controlling stake in Israel’s Hapoalim bank, made the announcement through the bank.
It was not specified what the exact value of the deal was, but the business daily Calcalist estimated it at around 3.25 billion shekels.
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The sale price was set with a value of each bank share at NIS 24.82, just below its market price. Hapoalim shares were up 1.5% as of 10:00 a.m. in Tel Aviv, and their value has risen 15% in one year.
Arison Holdings owns 20% of the shares of Hapoalim Bank. If the deal goes through, it could be one of the largest in the country’s financial sector, according to Bloomberg.
“Once the transaction is completed, we will act with our new partners, with the management and employees of the bank, in order to stimulate long-term responsible growth, for the benefit of all shareholders and customers. [de la banque] and the Israeli market, ”Arison said in a post.
The non-binding agreement also states that buyer representatives can be appointed to relevant boards.
“We have known for a while that Arison is trying to liquidate part of his shares in Bank Hapoalim. She failed to sell her stake in the bank, so she had to decrease and sell half of her stake, ”said Saar Golan, stock trader at Tel Aviv-based Bank of Jerusalem Ltd. .
“Anyone who buys 5% of a bank or anyone who wants a controlling stake will need to get approval from the regulator, and it’s not an easy process,” he said.
“Hapoalim shares are at their highest level in years now, so it’s a good time to sell and use the profits for something else. We assume that it will eventually sell the remaining shares as well. “
The sale of these shares comes at a time when Israeli banks face increased regulations and competition. They have been pinned down in US tax investigations for helping US clients practice tax evasion.
A source close to the case told the Times of Israël that if the deal comes to an end, Arison will still own 51% of its stake in Hapoalim Bank.
According to the source, the three North American investors will work together as a consortium, to become a strategic partner of the bank, and have long-term goals.
The aim is to help the Israeli bank to put in place an international strategy and to take advantage of its technological capacities, she added, specifying that the investment was a “profession of faith” towards the Israeli banking system.
The Central Bank of Israel, one of the bodies that will have to approve the transaction, said it had been made aware of the deal.
“If the deal is indeed completed, it is a vote of confidence from serious foreign investors in Israel’s banking sector,” the Central Bank said in a statement.
After submitting a formal request, approval of the transaction is expected to take up to several months, since it requires receipt of information sent by foreign regulators and other approvals, the Central Bank of China said. Israel.
Arison is the richest woman in Israel and the Middle East.
Her fortune is estimated at $ 5.4 billion, mostly in the form of stakes in Carnival Cruise Line and Hapoalim Bank that she inherited from her father, businessman Ted Arison.
She is also an important actor in the real estate, salt industry and water systems sectors.
Among other philanthropic activities, Arison supports “Mitzvah Day”, an annual event that, as its name suggests, encourages people to give of their time to improve the world and do good deeds. The next day of the Mitzvah will take place on April 15th.
The sale of Hapoalim’s shares will help Arison free up cash to invest in other projects dear to him, the source said, such as sustainability or humanitarian projects.