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Bank Hapoalim has tightened its capital requirements of clients wishing to take loans in the construction and infrastructure sectors. For example, the bank recently demanded from developer Motti Zisser that he provide equity of 50-60 percent of a project to build several commercial centers in central Europe.

The requirement for putting up such a large share of the investment is highly irregular, more than twice the usual rate demanded by the bank for projects of this type, and may be an indication of the bank's reluctance to have its fingers burned any further in these sectors.

Zisser has established such commercial centers in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Greece over the past 18 years, mostly financed through bank credit. The entrepreneur confirmed that he was in a dispute with Hapoalim over the financing. "The bank has been satisfied with equity of 25-30 percent in the past, but now asks for at least 50 percent, or even 60 percent. Under these conditions, there is no point in investing," he said.

He added that he did not believe Hapoalim's change in policy was personal, but rather that the banking fraternity had a vast amount of matters that needed to be sorted out. He believes that thanks to his diversification throughout Europe, he would suffer less than others from the new requirements.

In response, Bank Hapoalim said: "The bank does not comment on private matters concerning our clients. It is true that the bank has raised its capital requirement in the financing of projects. Nevertheless, every case will be dealt with on its merit."