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In a lightning move on the eve of the Passover holiday, Arcadi Gaydamak bought control of real estate firm Ocif Investment and Development for NIS 580 million.

Gaydamak purchased 53.09% of the company, which is involved in real estate investment, development and trusts.

The price reflects a company value of NIS 1.1 billion, twice its market value on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) of NIS 537.9 million.

This is Gaydamak's first foray into the stock market in Israel after a number of failed attempts.

Ocif carries out its real estate activities through a number of subsidiaries, including Ogen. It is also active in other investments in high tech, communications and infrastructure.

Among its best known holdings are the Aviv tower in Ramat Gan, as well as other Aviv projects in Herzliya and Ramat Aviv.

Until recently, Ogen was controlled by the company Alony Hetz and the Aviv group, but Hetz sold its shares in the real estate subsidiary earlier this year to Aviv for NIS 250 million. Ocif now controls 88% of Ogen.

Ocif had revenues of NIS 396 million in 2006, but lost NIS 26.6 million for the year.

Gaydamak is trying to mold himself a new image as a respectable businessman who operates within the national consensus. In the past he has attempted to enter the real estate sector by buying Minrav, but the deal fell through.

Sources say Gaydamak plans to expand Ocif's real estate operations overseas, in particular in Russia, and turn it into a leading holding company similar to Africa Israel.

This will be another step in Gaydamak's increased competition against the controlling shareholder of Africa Israel, Lev Leviev. The two have crossed paths before in the diamond business in Africa.

The purchase of Ocif will make them competitors in other areas too, in particular real estate in Israel and in Russia.

The negotiations between the Aviv group, controlled by the Aviv family, were led by Doron Aviv and his sister Dafna Harlev. Aviv is the chairman of Ocif and Harlev is the CEO.

Gaydamak was personally involved in the negotiations, but he declined to comment on the deal.

Ocif's spokesman said he could not comment on the matter at this stage. However, the company announced to the stock market a week ago that it occasionally receives offers, but that at the time it had reached no agreement, verbal or in writing, with anyone over the sale of control in the company.