Central Bank to Allow Handover at Hapoalim

The Bank of Israel is likely to allow Shari Arison to buy out her American partners for control of Bank Hapoalim. Sources in the banking sector say Arison meets all the criteria to be a controlling shareholder, primarily financial stability, so the central bank will have no reason to reject her application.

Apparently retiring Supervisor of Banks Yoav Lehman is not interested in deciding the issue and will pass it on to his successor. Associates of the Dankner family, which hopes to torpedo the deal, say the Bank of Israel won't approve Arison due to her lack managerial skills and the fact she is more involved in her spiritual ventures and her other business ventures.

However, the sector sources say regulations do not allow the bank to disallow shareholders on the basis of their business talent, and that in any event, the bank is managed by its executives and board of directors.

Control of Israel's largest bank is split between Arison, who owns 11.5 percent, the U.S. partners, with 5.5 percent, and the Dankner family's Israel Salt Industries, which has 3 percent. Arison has agreed to buy out the U.S. partners, which would give her 85 percent of the controlling shares, well past the 75 percent majority of controlling shares that currently must support any substantial decisions, essentially rendering her sole decision-maker at the bank.