The biggest buyer in El Al's flotation on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday was the Borovitch group, which took 40,000 packages during the issue, plus another 6,500 packages in a deal off the floor in the evening after the issue.
The Borovitch group's investment in El Al totaled NIS 15 million and fully diluted, reflected 23 percent of El Al stock. Businessman Yitzhak Tshuva acquired - presumably through Delek - some 3,000 packages, around 1.5 percent of the El Al stock after realization of the options.
Institutional investors, including trust and provident funds, came in with small orders. The El Al issue closed on the cheaper Alternative A, which reflects a company value of $55 million for the airline.
Fifteen percent of the El Al stock was sold to around 1,000 purchasers from among the public, such that 85 percent of the airline is still in the hands of the state, which remains in control of the company. On the other hand, share buyers are holding options constituting some 76 percent of the El Al stock. Hence, if they wish to, they can realize these options over the coming years and attain control over the national airline.
On Thursday, the El Al securities will be registered for trading on the bourse. The director-general of the Government Companies Authority, Eyal Gabbay, defined the flotation as a success. Others argue, however, that because the issue closed on the alternative that reflects the lowest value for the airline, the stock issue cannot be viewed as a success.
According to Gabbay, the TASE is expected to witness a battle for control of the airline. The value of the El Al shares and options on the bourse will rise, and "this could promote the following privatizations," he said.
Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum will review the purchase of the El Al stock by the Knafaim group, which controls Arkia. Strum will take action against the acquisition if it emerges that it doesn't sit well with his directives.
"Some two weeks ago, we informed Arkia and Israir that any acquisition that grants a management right requires our approval," Strum told Haaretz yesterday. "My position hasn't changed. If Knafaim believes it acted properly, I will look into it."
Also speaking to Haaretz yesterday, Arkia CEO Izzy Borovitch said, "Knafaim is a law-abiding company and will act in accordance with the law. We will sit down with Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum and resolve all the problems, just as always. Meantime, nothing has happened."
Earlier in the day, Borovitch said: "Knafaim doesn't see any conflict of interests between the purchase of the El Al stock and Arkia's ongoing independent operations. On the contrary, the purchase of the shares by Knafaim somewhat complements Arkia's current operations, for the general good of the Israeli economy."
According to the Arkia CEO, "The privatization itself is a very big success; for 20 years, they spoke about an issue. On the other hand, the fact that the company was sold according to the cheapest price... cannot be termed a success. They wanted to sell for as much as possible. The result itself is related to the condition of the market and that of El Al, and it isn't a great success. The state could have received four times as much money."
Borovitch was among the strategic investors who prior to the flotation met with representatives of the El Al employees. He presented them with his concept of management and expressed a desire to cooperate with them.
In response to the results of yesterday's stock issue, worker representatives said they would wait to learn the identity of all the parties with vested interests in the airline and then decide with whom to sit down to discuss cooperation possibilities.
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