MKs: Want to Sell Leumi? Tell Us Why

Moshe Gafni, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, yesterday postponed the vote on the state's sale of its remaining 11.46% interest in Bank Leumi, on the grounds that the parliamentarians had no idea what the issues at stake are.

"There is no majority in favor of selling within the committee," he said. "We all object to such a step at the moment, before we've received proper explanations."

The Finance Ministry's accountant general, Shuki Oren, told the committee, "This week we'll send out a draft bill that will better address the issue of selling without leaving a controlling party."

If there's no controlling party, only the bank's board of directors will have an interest in the bank succeeding, which has been the case over the last few years, Oren explained.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and NICE Systems also have no controlling party, and they're both successful companies, he added.

Finance Ministry representatives also doubt they could find a serious candidate to take over the bank's controlling stake, they said.

Gafni asked Oren to meet with representatives of the bank's workers, who are supposed to purchase 1% of the shares. Workers will receive a 25% discount on the share purchases.

Currently, the government's holdings in the bank are worth NIS 2.5 billion. After the 1% is sold to workers, the remaining 10.46% will be sold to the public.

Gafni also directed Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu to come before the committee to explain why exactly the state wants to sell the shares.

"We give complete credit to the Finance Ministry to decide when it wants to sell," Gafni said. However, none of the committee members actually supports any such sale without explanations, he said.