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The Antitrust Authority is leaning against allowing Nochi Dankner's IDB group to buy a controlling interest in Bank Hapoalim. But the watchdog is far from sure it has legal grounds to kill the deal, say sources near the authority.

There is a concern at the Antitrust Authority that the deal would result in higher credit costs for companies competing with the IDB group firms. Possibly it might reject the deal on the ground that it's anticompetitive.  IDB is Israel's biggest holding company, with arms in every sector.

"It is a very bad deal," said one of the sources. "The meeting point between the biggest provider of credit in the market and the conglomerate with key holdings could narrow the credit possibilities available to IDB's competitors, or raise their cost of credit."

He added that the deal would have unprecedented and broad ramifications, from the perspective of the concentration of power, and that of the company's rivals.

The sources insist that Dankner received no green thumb in advance.

If Dankner is allowed to buy the shares he wants, he would share the controlling interest in Bank Hapoalim with Shari Arison, the billionaire heiress of Ted Arison. She would have the bigger controlling interest, though, and has clarified that she means that to stay that way.