IDB Debt-restructuring Saga Nears End: Deal to Close Next Week

Communications Ministry gives Cellcom draft approval for transfer of control to buyers Ben-Moshe and Elsztain, ending recent speculation.

Ofer Vaknin

The Communications Ministry has given approval for the transfer of control of cellular operator Cellcom to Moti Ben-Moshe and Eduardo Elsztain, which was the final barrier preventing the completion of their debt restructuring agreement for IDB.

IDB Holdings reported on Monday that its Cellcom subsidiary received a draft version of the document approving the transfer on Sunday, which would allow the transfer of the IDB group to Elsztain and Ben-Moshe.

IDB said the company has not received the final, official approval for the change of ownership from the ministry, so there is no certainty the final approval will be given − or when.

But if there are no last-minute changes, the closing of the debt-restructuring agreement will take place next Wednesday, TheMarker has learned.

IDB Holdings bonds rose 8% on the news, while bonds of IDB Development rose 3%.

The European Union’s antitrust authority gave its permission for the debt arrangement at the end of last week.

Cellcom’s communications infrastructure in Israel is considered a strategic national asset due to its importance, and therefore requires ministry approval for the transfer of control.

Anyone wanting to own any strategic national asset such as Cellcom must first be vetted by the ministry, and this includes an examination by the Shin Bet security service.

Just last week, the settlement trustees told the court they were worried the approval process could drag out for months, and several alternatives had been raised to solve the problem.