Judge Agrees to Small Delay in Submitting Bids for IDB

Prospective bidders now have until November 3.

The judge presiding over the IDB group's financial tangle Thursday gave prospective bidders for the company a shorter deadline than they hoped for of November 3 to present their offers.

Hagai Ulman and Eyal Gabbay, the two court-appointed officials overseeing the holding company, had sought to delay the deadline to as late as November 30 to give bidders more time to examine IDB's books. They argued that as a holding company IDB is unusually complicated.

Instead, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Eitan Orenstein extended his original October 20 deadline by just two weeks. He said Ulman and Gabbay would have six days after that to examine the proposals.

IDB Holding sits at the pinnacle of a holding group weighed down by some NIS 8 billion in debt to banks and bondholders. This has made the company the object a range of bailout proposals that would swap much of the debt for about half the equity in a restructured group.

Shares of IDB Holding closed 5.9% higher in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange trading Thursday at NIS 6.60. Its Series 4 bonds rose 1.8%.

In August, Orenstein set an October 20 deadline for proposals, hoping that would provide enough time for new bidders to emerge and for those who already made offers to organize and find financing for them.

Among the new possible bidders is a group of investors from the United States, China, Hong Kong and Singapore led by Neil Bush, brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who emerged as a contender for IDB this week.

The Ukrainian businessman Alexander Granovsky, who is allied with IDB Holding head Nochi Dankner, also sought extra time to get approval from shareholders in Granovsky's company, Emblaze, to move forward with their own restructuring plan for IDB Holding. Emblaze shareholders are not due to meet to approve using the cash for IDB until October 30.

But Orenstein said he would not consent to further lengthy delays.

"I don't see any reason to agree to the company's request to delay until November 30 or even November 17 in order to enable the Granovksy group just to allow the procedures at Emblaze to be completed," the judge wrote. "The court has been patient with the company and has pushed back the deadline for submissions by several weeks. Accepting the current petition would mean yet another delay for filing offers, causing disproportionate harm to creditors."

Argentinian businessman Eduardo Elsztain, a former ally of Dankner who has already invested capital in IDB, has a proposal of his own.

In addition to ordering the deadline delay, Orenstein instructed Ulman to transfer some NIS 520 million in cash to the trustees representing the bondholders of IDB Development Corporation, a subsidiary of IDB Holding. The money will be used to pay principal and interest on debt that was due last June.

The amount represents 65% of what they were due. The bondholders, who are led by the U.S. hedge fund York had sought NIS 800 million, or 75% of what they are due.

Olivier Fitoussi