Safra National Bank of New York, a part of the São Paulo, Brazil-based Safra Group, is to buy Bank Hapoalim’s Miami private banking business for US$16.5m (£13m, €15.47m), as it seeks to boost its presence in the Latin American high-net-worth banking marketplace.
Tel Aviv-based Bank Hapoalim is Israel’s largest bank, and is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
In a statement released in New York on Sunday, privately-held Safra called the acquisition, which will give it Bank Hapoalim’s US$2bn private banking portfolio, “a logical extension of Safra National Bank of New York’s private banking business for Latin America”.
Also in the statement, Jacob J Safra, vice-chairman of Safra National Bank and a member of the bank’s founding family, expressed the Safra Group’s determination “to play a leading role in the consolidation of the private banking market”.
“Our capital strength, family ownership and 175 years of experience give us great flexibility to do such transactions,” he added.
As reported, Safra’s Basel-based Swiss operation, J Safra Sarasin, recently completed its acquisition of Credit Suisse’s Gibraltar operation, which is now to be called Bank JSS Gibraltar Ltd.
Miami has long been a major financial centre for HNWIs and UHNWIs from Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as US-based Latin Americans.
The agreement to buy Bank Hapoalim’s Miami private banking business covers the Israeli bank’s “qualifying clients” and their relationship management teams, which focus on Latin American HNWIs, Safra said. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
Israeli media reports noted that Bank Hapoalim’s decision to sell its Miami business to Safra’s New York arm followed an extensive review by the bank of its international private banking activity, in light of changes in regulation and the business environment offshore that have increased the costs of doing business. They cited a filing with the Tel Aviv stock exchange in which Bank Hapoalim announced plans to also close its subsidiary in Uruguay and its representative offices in Latin America.
The J Safra Group has assets under management of more than US$194bn, and aggregate stockholders equity of US$15.4bn, and is controlled by Joseph Safra. It also owns a number of businesses and major real estate properties, including the company that produces Chiquita-branded bananas (Chiquita Brands International Inc) and London’s “Gherkin” skyscraper (30 St Mary’s Axe).