Koor Sells $100m of Makhteshim Stock

Koor Industries sold shares in its agrochemicals subsidiary Makhteshim Agan Industries to the Swiss bank UBS for $100 million on Tuesday.

UBS will distribute the shares this morning to institutional investors at a 4 percent discount on yesterday's closing share price. Makhteshim Agan closed up 2.2 percent Tuesday at NIS 16.13 per share.

Before Tuesday's sale, Koor, an investment holding company, held 47.6 percent of Makhteshim Agan shares at a market value of NIS 2.9 billion. After Tuesday's sale of 7 percent of its stake in the agrochemicals firm (15 percent of its overall holdings in the company), Koor's share will drop to about 40 percent.

Koor's debts to the banks are estimated at $390 million, and after using the receipts from the stock sale to pay down the debt, its leverage should drop by 20 percent. Koor will also record capital gains which will be tax-free due to the company's ability to offset the profits with enormous losses incurred from its holdings in ECI Telecom. Market sources estimated that Koor would also sell part of its ECI holdings after a sharp rise of those shares in recent months. In Koor's third-quarter 2003 results, based on a new fair market evaluation of ECI that Koor had commissioned, the company canceled an NIS 82 million provision for its 33 percent stake in the telecoms equipment provider.

Since Koor hit bottom at the beginning of 2003, its stock has risen approximately 300 percent. In June, Koor sold Makhteshim Agan shares that were worth $24 million at the time. After Koor published its third-quarter financial reports in November, the company's CFO, Yuval Yanai, announced that it was planning on selling another 6 percent of its shares in Makhteshim Agan. Only a few days ago, Koor attempted to sell a large package of Makhteshim Agan shares, but the sale never materialized.

Koor netted a third-quarter profit of NIS 5.6 million, a lower figure than profits recorded in the previous two quarters, but a significant turnaround from the massive NIS 314 million loss posted by the company in Q3 2002. It was Koor's fourth profitable quarter in a row.

After gains of 100 percent during the previous year, Makhteshim Agan's share price is near an all-time high.

The rising tide in the stock market has led to a large number of sales by controlling shareholders of other companies recently. Among the more remarkable sales that took place in the previous week, Mori Arkin sold NIS 205 million worth of shares in Agis, and Clal Industries sold NIS 150 million in Ormat shares.