Business in Brief: Saban-controlled Partner Most Likely Candidate to Buy Leumi Card

Starboard sells down Mellanox stake after reaching deal with management ■ Altshuler Shaham forms blockchain unit ■ Tel Aviv Stock Exchange lifted by strong gains for biomedical shares

File photo: Haim Saban, 2016.
Bloomberg

Partner Communications most likely candidate to buy Leumi Card

Partner Communications, the mobile operator controlled by Hollywood mogul Haim Saban, has emerged as the most likely contender to buy control of Bank Leumi’s credit card unit. Sources close to the deal said Partner is weighing a bid that values Leumi Card at up to 30% more than its shareholder equity, which was 1.9 billion shekels ($520 million) at the end of March. Partner said in June it would make a bid, but the market didn’t take it seriously. Partner has over 700 million in cash and generates hundreds of millions in cash flow. Partner executives see credit cards as a new growth engine as cellphone revenues continue to decline, and see synergies between the two businesses. Other contenders include U.S. private equity funds Warburg Pincus and Centerbridge Partners as well as the Swiss Partners Group. Leumi, which owns 80% of Leumi Card, is expected to announce a buyer within the month. (Michael Rochvarger) 

Starboard sells down Mellanox stake after reaching deal with management

Starboard, the U.S. activist investor that challenged the management practices of Israeli tech company Mellanox, has begun selling down its stake three weeks after reaching a compromise with managers. The fund sold 345,000 shares worth $29 million, reducing its stake to 9.68% from 10.5%. Starboard emerged as Mellanox’s biggest shareholder in November. It attacked the company’s board, in particular founder and CEO Eyal Waldman, contending that the company was insufficiently profitable. Starboard proposed new directors and hinting it wanted Waldman out. But as the battle raged, Mellanox profits and share prices improved and in June the sides reached a compromise on nominees to the board and company performance milestones for 2018 and 2019. Shareholders approved the deal June 25. Mellanox shares were down 4% at $81.40 late morning local time in New York Thursday. (Yoram Gabison)

Altshuler Shaham forms blockchain unit 

Altshuler Shaham Investment House, an Israeli firm with 100 billion shekels ($27.5 billion) under management, knows there’s money to be made in blockchain, but it doesn’t quite know how. Putting the cart before the horse, the firm has launched Horizon by Altshuler Shaham to manage the blockchain business but not investment in digital currencies. “The first goal is to study the cryptocurrency realm. It will be a kind of knowledge center, With all the noise and hype surrounding the sector we need to first learn what blockchain technology can do, how much and for whom,” said Yossi Dayan, who will oversee the business together with Altshuler Shaham co-CEO Ran Shaham. Ex-Google executives Guy Tavor and Yoah Ben-David also joined the team. As for bitcoin, Shaham said he “won’t touch” it. “It’s like gold; I don’t know how to price gold and I don’t invest in it.” (Assa Sasson)

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange lifted by strong gains for biomedical shares

Tel Aviv shares posted strong gains Thursday with biomedical stocks in the lead, as technology and industrial stocks carried Wall Street higher. The TA-35 and TA-125 indexes finished up about 0.6% to 1,549.70 and 1,385.04 points, respectively, on thin trading of 872 million shekels ($240 million). Opko Health paced gains for biomedical stocks, leaping 7.2% to end at 22.55. Teva Pharmaceuticals added 1.1% to 86.96 and Mazor Robotics climbed 3.7% to 112, but Perrigo slid 1.8% to 277.70. El Al, whose shares have tumbled this year due to growing competition and debt, turned 4.9% higher to end at 7.96. Still, with a market capitalization of 395 million shekels, the carrier is worth less than one of its nine Boeing Dreamliners. Losers on the TA-125 were led by TowerJazz, which fell 2.7% to 79.21. Israel Chemicals rose 1% to 17.01. (TheMarker)