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Cerberus-Gabriel, which last week won the bid to buy Bank Leumi, has come to an agreement on bringing in private investors, according to sources. These are most likely foreign investors with enough wherewithal to receive the blessings of the Bank of Israel without much difficulty.

As an institutional investor, according to the terms of the tender, Cerebrus-Gabriel must share the controlling share with another investor.

In the days after the winning envelope was opened, the other strategic investors who submitted their bids announced that they are natural candidates to join Cerberus-Gabriel. Shlomo Eliahu, who holds 9.98 percent of Leumi's shares, said that he would be an "excellent partner." The names of diamond baron Lev Leviev, another bidder, as well as the IDB Group also came up.

Despite rumors about talks with local investors, industry insiders believe the New York hedge funds did a deal with several investors - probably from abroad - ahead of last week's bid. It could even be partners in Cerberus-Gabriel who want a stake on a private basis.

The stipulation of having a strategic partner is based on the fact that most investment consortiums, like Cerberus-Gabriel, are time-limited; their assets are divided up among the partners after this time is reached. The hope is that linking the consortium with a private entity will prevent the instability that such a situation could cause.

Cerberus-Gabriel bid NIS 2.474 billion for a 9.99 percent stake in Bank Leumi, or NIS 17.50 per share, 16 percent more than the share's closing price the day before, and 54 percent above the bank's shareholders' equity. Cerberus has six months to present the Bank of Israel with its strategic partner and the appropriate permits from the U.S.