Capitalists Salivating Over the Sell-off of Banks' Funds

Haaretz has learned that Lev Leviev's people are looking into cooperating with a local investment firm for the purpose of acquiring mutual and provident funds from the banks.

One cannot accuse Muzi Wertheim, Kobi Alexander, Ilan Ben Dov, Natan Hetz and Haim Katzman of not being on the ball. Over the past two months, these five businessmen have dipped their hands into pockets and taken out between NIS 17 million to NIS 50 million to join up with existing controling shareholders at private investment houses.

The main reason for their having done so is the approval granted to the reform in the capital market (the Bachar Committee) and the expected sell-off of the banks' mutual and provident funds.

Not only local tycoons but entities from abroad and some of the economy's largest holding companies are looking to get involved in the changing capital market - a more competitive and less centralized market that will include more players who will each hold a smaller segment of the market.

Haaretz has learned of a number of moves currently in the works - first and foremost, on the part of the Leviev Group, through Africa Israel or privately. Lev Leviev's people are currently looking into the option of cooperating with a local investment firm for the purpose of acquiring mutual and provident funds from the banks. Leviev would like the group he controls to be involved in managing tens of billions of shekels in long-term savings.

For their part, the Meitav and Epsilon companies are in talks with entities from abroad. Epsilon has already reached an agreement in principle with a London-based investment group on the establishment of a joint venture that will compete for the banks' funds.

Meitav is also currently involved in similar talks with a large foreign organization. Meitav would like a 50-50 partnership in a company that will purchase assets from the banks. The assets acquired would then be merged with the assets currently managed by Meitav such that the foreign organization would convert 50 percent of the shares in the company established into a little more than 20 percent of the shares of the mother company, Meitav.

Zvi Stepak, chairman of the Meitav group, and Shmuel Frankel, one of the controling shareholders in Epsilon have confirmed the information.

In addition, partnership talks are underway between well-known local businessmen (such as Hetz, Wertheim and Ben Dov) and a number of private investment firms.

For his part, Yair Hamburger, a controling shareholder in Harel Insurance, has not abandoned the idea of acquiring a private brokerage. Harel is not involved much in the capital market because its private investment firm, Harel Capital Markets, was unable to step up a level as did Clal Insurance's Clal Finances (which purchased Evergreen and Ilanot Batucha) and Migdam Insurance's Migdal Capital Markets (50 percent of which was purchased by Bear Stearns).