Text size

Control of shell company A Online was acquired yesterday for NIS 3,000, in a surprise move by chairman of the tax reform committee, Yair Rabinovitch. Rabinovitch bought the 31.5-percent stake from the company's founder and previous controlling shareholder, Jacob Shemer, the owner of coffee shop chain Arcaffe.

A Online was an Internet company that went public in 2000. The company operated the financial news Internet site, Analyst Online, which racked up huge losses before being sold to the company that operates Ha'aretz group's TheMarker. The company has a NIS 7.2 million deficit in shareholders equity and accumulated losses for tax purposes of NIS 20 million, which Rabinovitch may hope to use.

Rabinovitch stated that the acquisition had had no relation to the imminent implementation of the tax reform. Bank Hapoalim also holds 20 percent in A Online, and an earlier agreement between the bank and Shemer grants each party a tag-along right to any deal in which one of them sells its stake. Bank Hapoalim could, therefore, sell Rabinovitch its holdings for NIS 2,000.

The move is surprising because brokerage Analyst - the previous controlling shareholder - holds a NIS 20 million capital note that A Online is to repay in eight years and that had been a stumbling block to the sale.

Hinting at a possible creditors agreement, Rabinovitch said he was aware of the debt situation and hoped everyone would end up satisfied. Nonetheless, he did not say what activity he planned to inject into the shell.