Arison Buying Hapoalim Shares

Shari Arison is buying the shares of her foreign partners in the controlling interest of Bank Hapoalim. She will buy their 5.5 percent stake in the bank, paying part in cash and the rest in Hapoalim shares that are not restricted by the controlling interest agreements and rules.

The "free" shares can be sold by the American investors at any time and are not restricted by the Bank of Israel's limitations on the controlling shares.

She has offered far more than Nochi Dankner had bid, via IDB before she vetoed his offer and decided to exercise her first right of refusal to buy the shares.

Arison has made the other controlling shareholders an offer of her own and, reportedly, a generous one. The sources declined to say how much exactly she was offering, but it seems to be slightly less than their market value.

As far as is known, Dankner offered to buy out the American shareholders for 10 percent below the market price of the shares.

Arison owns an 11.5 percent controlling interest in the bank, Israel's largest, which comprises 57 percent of the controlling core. The controlling core of Bank Hapoalim is defined as 20 percent of its shares, which are marked as controlling shares.

In other words, even if Dankner had achieved his aspiration of buying 8.5 percent of the bank's controlling shares, she would still have been more powerful.

At first Arison reportedly accepted the concept of having Dankner join the controlling core by buying out the other controlling shareholders, but she is then said to have reneged, preferring to not to share control. Once he realized the ramifications of her opposition, Dankner halted his negotiations.

The so-called American shareholders are Michael Steinhardt, Len Abramson and the Shusterman family. All are believed to want to get rid of their Hapoalim shares.

The sources claim that Arison's talks with the American shareholders are at a very advanced stage, and may be concluded even before the Rosh Hashanah holiday begins this evening.

The Americans did not even try to play off Arison and Dankner to get a better price, say the sources, though others said that Dankner rejected a suggestion that he compete with her over the price.