Shari Arison sells Israeli salt monopoly to Fortissimo fund
Shari Arison, the Carnival Cruise Lines heiress and Israel’s wealthiest woman, took another step toward divesting her Israel assets. On Wednesday, her investment vehicle Arison Holdings agreed to sell Melach Haaretz (Salt of the Earth) for just 160 million shekels ($43.4 million) to the Fortissimo private equity fund. That price was a lot less than the 200 million to 300 million shekels she had expected, but apparently the Fortissimi offer was the higher among several non-binding bids Arison got in October when she put the company up for sale.
Melach Haaretz controls about 80% of the Israeli salt market and exports as well and is believed to be high profitable, generating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of up to 25 million shekels annually. However, buyers bid low knowing she wants to offload her Israeli companies. She sold Housing & Construction Limited last year and is seeking to sell her controlling stake in Bank Hapoalim. (Guy Erez)
Five companies weighing bids to set up small-business lender
At least five companies are weighing bids in an Economy and Industry Ministry tender to license a non-bank lender to small and medium-sized businesses, TheMarker has learned. Among them is Leumi Card, the credit card issuer about to be sold by Bank Leumi to the U.S. private equity fund Warburg Pincus. Others are Israel Credit Cards, which is controlled by Israel Discount Bank; insurer Phoenix; peer-to-peer lender Tarya; and the non-bank lender Peninsula, which is weighing setting up a company to compete in the bidding. The ministry has been trying for the last several years to step up lending to smaller businesses by allowing companies like Peninsula to raise debt capital in the bond market. The two winners of the current tender, who will be revealed at the end of March, have to show they have 500 million shekels ($136 million) in committed capital. (Eran Azran)
Pharma shares take Tel Aviv Stock Exchange higher
Pharma shares led the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange higher on Wednesday. The benchmark TA-35 index rose nearly 1% to close at 1,509.68 points, while the TA-125 gained 0.8%, on turnover of 1.03 billion shekels ($280 million). Teva Pharmaceuticals climbed 2.9% to 70.62 shekels, marking a 20.4% gain since the start of the year. Opko Health rose 3.95% to 14.21 and BioTime advanced 5.4% to 4.16. Cellphone companies were sharply lower, with Cellcom Israel down 2.7% to 19.77, Partner Communications off 1.1% to 16.90 and Electra Consumer, which owns Golan Telecom, down 2.9% at 39.50. Inrom fell 3.3% to 11.69 after the FIMI fund sold its last remaining 11% in the company for 11.53 shekels a share. Super-Sol raised 552 million shekels at 3.52% in a bond sale to institutions. Orders were for twice that. Super-Sol shares ended 1.2% higher at 25.41. (Guy Erez)
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