Israel Discount Bank maintains it has a right of first refusal to buy the stock in FIBI Holdings, that Zadik Bino closed a deal for on Sunday.
FIBI Holdings, in which Bino is set to acquire a 52-percent stake, controls the First International Bank of Israel; Israel Discount Bank has 26.4 percent in FIBI.
Discount Bank sent an urgent letter yesterday to the sellers, the Safra family, maintaining that the bank has the right to buy the stock at the same price offered by Bino. Discount demands an answer within 48 hours.
Associates of Zadik Bino said yesterday that Discount's argument was baseless. Discount's right of first refusal was for stock in FIBI itself, not in FIBI Holdings, they explain. In similar previous transactions, including when the Safra family gained control of FIBI Holdings, Discount did not present any such claims.
Discount's letter, drafted by attorney Nir Cohen, maintains the sale of FIBI Holdings is one and the same as the sale of FIBI stock.
On Sunday it was announced that 52 percent of FIBI Holdings would be sold to Zadik Bino and the Australian Lieberman family for $90 million. Since in its financial reports, Discount Bank bases the valuation of its holding in FIBI on the bank's equity, which is NIS 1.6 billion, and since the Bino deal reflects a value of 50 percent of FIBI's equity for the bank, Discount Bank will be forced to write off around NIS 400 million.
Banking sources estimated that Discount's move is designed to stall or prevent the need to write off NIS 400 million of the value of its holding in FIBI. It is also possible Discount feels that as long as the bank is required to write off such a large amount, it may as well spend the money to buy FIBI Holdings and gain control of FIBI.
The merged bank would be able to compete with the big players, Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim.
It is unknown how the Safra family will react. Discount Bank refused to comment.
Meanwhile, the Securities Authority wrote a letter to FIBI Holdings on Tuesday, asking it to comment on the value reflected for FIBI in the Bino-Safra deal.
FIBI Holdings has not yet answered the letter, but apparently the company has no intention of writing off the value of its holding. FIBI Holdings will argue that the low valuation set by the Safra brothers and Bino is relevant to this transaction alone.
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