All Bank Leumi branches will be closed tomorrow as the bank's 10,000 staffers hold a gathering in Tel Aviv to protest the coming privatization of the bank. Leumi branches in Gush Dan and the Sharon region will remain open tomorrow until 10 A.M.
The head of the workers' union, Louis Roth, said the protest aims to send three messages: to the potential buyer, not to buy Leumi without guaranteeing staff's work conditions; to the bank management, not to agree to privatization compensation without staff's approval; "and to the workers, that [their] committee is determined to continue this campaign until what they deserve is guaranteed."
Meanwhile, a crisis is brewing in the state's tender to sell its stake in Leumi. Sources close to the sales process say there is almost zero chance that any strategic investors will participate. That would leave the field open to financial investors who want nothing more than to profit from the stock, rather than to own a controlling interest in Israel's second-biggest bank.
At the end of last week a team of people from the Finance Ministry and Bank Leumi met with consortia of potential strategic investors, including Cerberus-Gabriel and Zuckerman-Safra-Lowy. The consortia may have entertained high hopes of concessions, but the treasury and bank officials had nothing new to say. The treasury is firm about the terms of the sale and, mainly, about the pricing of stock options.
As things stand the treasury means to sell a 9.99 percent stake to the highest bidder, and to grant an option for its remaining 10.01 percent interest. Exercise of the option would be contingent on a slew of regulatory approvals, while the purchase of the 9.99 percent interest is not.
Sources associated with the process say the potential strategic investors had been disappointed at the meeting, where they had expected to hear concessions. The highest-placed representatives of the consortia did not even agree to go into the meetings with the treasury chiefs - in a broad hint of their intentions when the tender begins.
The treasury commented only that not all the consortia have revealed themselves and some remain in the running.
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