Hummus, Fries, a Coke and IDB on the Side

Who is the mystery private investor who has ordered hundreds of millions of shekels worth of corporate bonds in the recent wave of bond issues? It's Eitan Salman, the owner of E.S. Bartman Investments. In the past year Salman's name has appeared on almost every list of classified investors ordering bonds in public issues.

"He is connected with some shwarma chain and manages the company's proprietary portfolio, maybe Shwarma Shemesh," said an underwriting market source when asked about Salman.

When Clal Industries issued bonds to raise NIS 250 million last week, Salman ordered NIS 40 million worth. A partial list of other bond orders includes NIS 10 million worth of IDB Holdings bonds; NIS 30 million worth of Properties and Building bonds - from its NIS 500 million bond issue; and NIS 36 million worth of Israel Discount Bank bonds, when the bank raised NIS 550 million in October.

Salman's family owns the Shemesh steak restaurant in Tel Aviv's Hatikva quarter. His father is related to the Na'amas, a family that owns Shwarma Shemesh in Ramat Gan. Eitan Salman registered Bartman with the Registrar of Companies in 2005. The company's executives include his mother, Carmela Salman. Salman's lawyer said on Tuesday that there is no connection between Bartman and the restaurant businesses.

Salman's investments, then, are from his own money. The type of investment activity that Salman practices usually consists of bond purchases at issue time and their quick resale. It is rare to see companies like Bartman holding onto bonds for long periods, and the purchases are often highly leveraged, depending on the type of transaction. The high leverage also makes it difficult to calculate their equity. Whatever the exact numbers, Salman became a very significant player in the bond issues market in the past year, sometimes ordering almost 10% of institutional tenders held by the issuing companies.

"Sometimes it seems as if Salman and [Barak Capital CEO] Eyal Bakshi saved the non-bank credit market over the past year," a player in the underwriting market joked last week.

Bakshi's corporate bond orders have included NIS 100 million in Bank Leumi's promissory note issue a few months ago and NIS 110 million in the Scailex bond issue. In several bond issues in September-November, Bakshi's and Salman's combined orders amounted to 10%-20% of each issue.