Stake in Israel’s Bank Hapoalim to go to ‘North America’ buyers

The heiress behind Arison Holdings, which has a “controlling” 20% stake in Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, has signed an agreement to sell about 49% of Arison’s holdings in the bank, the bank said in a statement on Sunday.

According to an Arison Holdings statement attached to the bank’s statement, “an investment company and institutional investors from North America” had agreed acquire “approximately 49% of the issued and outstanding share capital of Arison Holdings…which holds the controlling interest [in] Bank Hapoalim Ltd”.

The statement noted that the agreement was subject to various approvals and conditions, including due diligence on the part of the undisclosed North American investors, the signing of binding agreements and customary closing conditions.

Tel Aviv-based Bank Hapoalim is Israel’s largest bank, and is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. As reported,  Bank Hapoalim last year agreed to sell  its Miami private banking business to Safra National Bank of New York, a part of the São Paulo, Brazil-based Safra Group, in the latest of what has been a steady consolidation of its overseas operations. In 2013 it shed a London private banking operation, although it still maintains a London presence through its PAM Global Investments investment arm.

The Times of Israel quoted a text message from Shari Arison, the heiress who heads up Arison Holdings, as saying: “Once the transaction will be completed, we will act together with our new partners, and with the bank’s management and employees, to enhance responsible long-term growth, for the benefit of all stakeholders, customers and the Israeli market”.

The publication quoted an un-named person familiar with the matter as saying that if and when the deal is completed, Arison will still hold 51% of the controlling stake in Bank Hapoalim.

It also noted that the bank’s shares were “at a multi-year high at the moment”, making it a good time for Arison to sell.

Arison, who has a reputation as a philanthropist, is said to be both the Middle East and Israel’s wealthiest woman, thanks to holdings in Bank Hapoalim, the Carnival cruise line business and other entities that she inherited from her father, Ted Arison.

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