Israel's Largest Lender to Explore Three Options for Divesting Its Credit Card Unit

Business in Brief | Kenon shares soar after joint Qoros auto venture enlists strategic investor; Delek Group hikes price it wants for control of insurer Phoenix

A Tel Aviv branch of Bank Hapoalim, June 13, 2016.
David Bachar

Hapoalim to explore three options for divesting Isracard unit

The board of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest lender, instructed management to explore options for selling its Isracard credit card unit, the bank said Thursday. The move comes in the wake of new regulation meant to increase competition in the sector by ordering the country’s top two banks to sell their credit card companies in the next three years, or four if they take them public. Hapoalim said in a statement it was exploring three options: selling shares to the public; selling it to an investor or group of investors; or distributing its shares as a dividend to Hapoalim shareholders. The bank is starting to prepare a prospectus for a possible share offering while also holding talks with leading investment banks about finding a buyer. With 4.8 million cardholders and annual revenue of more than 2 billion shekels ($549 million), Isracard is Israel’s largest credit card company. Hapoalim shares ended down 0.5% at 21.64 shekels. (Reuters)

Kenon shares soar after joint Qoros auto venture enlists strategic investor

Shares of the Israeli holding company Kenon Holdings soared Thursday after its 50%-owned Chinese automaker Qoros said it had enlisted a strategic partner. Kenon said that the company, together with Chery – its joint venture partner in Qoros – has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with China’s Yibin municipal government to collaborate on conventional and new energy vehicle projects in Sichuan Province, where Yibin is located. Through its investment platform company, Yibin and Qoros will establish a NEV manufacturing base in the city. Kenon cautioned that further agreements were still needed before the investment framework is fully in place, but added: “Such further agreements, once executed, are expected to involve significant investments by Yibin in Qoros, which would dilute Quantum’s and Chery’s interests.” Although Qoros saw a sales surge at the end of last year, it has been a persistent money loser and posted a $279 million loss last year. Kenon shares jumped 10.3% to 44.81 shekels ($12.30). (TheMarker Staff)

Delek Group hikes price it wants for control of insurer Phoenix

Delek Group, the holding company controlled by Yitzhak Tshuva, said Thursday it had extended the deadline to sell its majority stake in insurer Phoenix Holdings to China’s Yango Group, but was raising the price. Citing an increase in Phoenix’s market capitalization, Delek said the price for its 52.3% stake in Phoenix would now be 2.152 billion shekels ($590 million), compared with the original 1.971 billion shekels. That values the insurer at 4.1 billion shekels, compared with its market valuation of 3.8 billion shekels. The deadline to complete the deal was extended by two months to June 1, but since Israeli regulators have not approved any of four offers by Chinese buyers for Israeli financial institutions – including an abortive 2015 bid by Fuson International for Phoenix – the sale is by no means assured. Delek shares finished 3% lower at 849.50 shekels. Phoenix shares rose 1.1% to 15.50 shekels. (Assa Sasson)

Stock market resumes losses in heavy trading

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange resumed its path downward on Thursday, after a one-day bump a day earlier amid heavy trading prompted by an adjustment of the bourse’s key indices. The blue-chip TA-35 index ended down 0.7% at 1,400.30 points, while the TA-125 lost nearly 0.5% to 1,262.25, on turnover of 2.45 billion shekels ($670 million). Among the biggest losers, Mannkind plunged 9.3% to 4.40 shekels and LivePerson lost 4.9% to 24.16. Bank Leumi paced declines in bank shares, losing 1.4% to end at 15.93 shekels. But Sapiens climbed 3.9% to 50.46 after reporting it won a $50-million contract; Property & Building Limited extended gains from the day before after HSBC renewed a lease on a key New York property. Shares rose 4.4% to 367.30 shekels, while its parent company, Discount Investment Corporation, rose 5.8% to 14.43 shekels. Menivim, the TASE’s fourth real estate investment trust, floated shares and bonds on Thursday, raising 63 million shekels in equity capital.