Bank Hapoalim May Have to Kiss Away $18 Million in Maariv Group Holdings

Bank Hapoalim may have to write off up to $18 million on its assets in Maariv Holdings, which publishes the daily newspaper Maariv.

Maariv Holdings' share price has fallen far below the level at which Hapoalim invested a year and a half ago - but that isn't the reason for the looming writeoff. The reason is high-tech entrepreneur Zaki Rakib's investment in the publishing group, reported last week.

Rakib is investing according to a company valuation of $35 million for Maariv, which is $65 million below the price at which Hapoalim "bought in" some 18 months ago. (The bank actually forgave Vladimir Gusinsky a $28 million loan for which it got his 27% stake in Maariv.)

Until now Hapoalim could theoretically avoid writing down the value of its investment, arguing that Maariv's value would recover. But now that Rakib came on board at such a low value, suggest industry analysts, Hapoalim may have to acknowledge that the loss in Maariv is not transient.

Once a loss in value is considered unretrievable, it has to show up in the company's financial statement.