Israeli Billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva Offloads Stake in Tamar Petroleum to Media Mogul Eli Azur

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The Tamar rig
The Tamar rigCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

Delek Drilling, Yitzhak Tshuva’s energy holding company, has agreed to sell its remaining stake in Tamar Petroleum for 100 million shekels ($31 million), reportedly to Eli Azur, a media magnate whose holdings include The Jerusalem Post.

The move comes as Tshuva divests his holdings in the Tamar natural gas field, Israel’s second largest, to meet the terms of the government’s gas framework agreement. Tamar Petroleum, which was spun off from Delek Drilling in 2017, has a 16.75% stake in the field.

As part of the divestment undertaking, earlier this week Delek Drilling signed a memorandum of understanding to sell its 22% direct holding in the Tamar field to Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Petroleum for $1.1 billion.

In a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Delek Drilling didn’t identify the buyer and declined to comment further on the sale. But sources said it was Azur, whose other holdings include Walla, the country’s second-largest news website, which he acquired from telecom company Bezeq for 65 million shekels.

Azur’s other media holdings include the Maariv daily, radio stations 99FM, 103FM and Radio Tzafon, as well as the Charlton sports channels. He also holds a 12.8% stake in NeoGames, which provides internet services to lottery firms, and 16% in Aspire Global, which provides services to online gambling and gaming companies.

The combination of media and natural gas is not new in Israel. Tshuva also owns about 20% of the Keshet media group, which controls Channel 12 television.

The gas framework agreement aims to inject competition into the Israeli natural gas market, which today is dominated by Chevron, after it bought Noble Energy last year, and Delek Drilling. Tshuva still owns more than 45% of the Leviathan offshore gas field, which has nearly twice the gas reserves of Tamar.

The sale announced Wednesday is expected to be completed over the next several days. The shares were sold for just over 5 shekels each, about the same price as they trade on the TASE.

The Tamar field is located 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of Haifa and 5,000 meters underwater. It began production in 2013 and today sells most of its gas domestically with small quantities of exports to Egypt and Jordan.

According to the latest estimate produced by the energy consulting firm Netherland, Sewell & Associates in January, Tamar has proven reserves of some 300 billion cubic meters of gas and 14 million barrels of condensate after pumping 69.3 BCM of gas to date.

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