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Banks desperate to shore up their bottom lines as financial crisis prowls the globe have been widening their spreads, keeping the interest they charge high while paying less for their resources. Yet one bank has found another, decidedly original, solution to minimize its pain.

Union Bank's trust company has begun charging fees to holders of bonds in the companies it handles, if they want their information through a venue other than Internet.

The trust company provides services to the Pelephone mobile services company, Mekorot water utility and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, among others.

Do you hold Mekorot or Rafael bonds? Not directly. All three are privately-held companies not listed for trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. However, institutional investors do hold them and are entitled to receive copies of these companies' quarterly financial statements, which are not in the public domain.

So, to get copies of said financial statements institutional investors contacted the Union Bank trust company as usual, and were purely astonished to learn that they'd have to pay for the pleasure of having the reports photocopied and mailed or faxed out.

The charge is NIS 200.

That fee isn't much, to be sure. But it adds to the fees that the trust company already receives for each bond series it handles. Its handling fee can reach tens of thousands of shekels a year.

Union Bank explained that when the financial statements can be sent by email, its trust company does so for free. However, more and more requests have been arriving for copies of for these lengthy reports to be sent by mail or by fax, which takes a lot of time at the back office and naturally involves added costs.