U.S. Tycoon Might Join Discount Bid

U.S. billionaire William Davidson may join a group of investors to bid for the state's stake in Israel Discount Bank, sources told Haaretz Wednesday.

According to these sources, several groups are now forming to bid for Discount, as word has it that the government will agree to sell for an attractive price and without too much red tape.

After the deal in which the Safra family sold its holdings in First International Bank of Israel to Zadik Bino and the Lieberman family at a valuation of 50 percent of the bank's equity, it is said that Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be more flexible in selling Discount.

This is due to his privatization policy and because of the bank's need for a capital injection, which the treasury refuses to grant. Netanyahu said last week that foreign investors are expressing an interest in one of the banks in which the government has a stake.

Davidson, who made his fortune in the glass industry, may have been one of these investors. He holds various assets, including Guardian Industries, the fourth largest glass producer in the world, NBA team Detroit Pistons and their stadium, the Palace.

In Israel Davidson controls Phoenicia glass, 4.8 percent in IDB Holdings and 5 percent in Orbotech. He is represented here by Oded Tyrah, Phoenicia's CEO. Davidson has been a director at IDB, which controls 13 percent of Discount's share capital.

The government has already held a tender to sell Discount three years ago, but the tender was canceled. One of the groups that was bidding to buy the bank at the time included Shlomo Eliyahu, Yitzhak Manor, Yeshayahu Landau and Yitzhak Tshuva.

Tshuva withdrew from the group because of an investigation by the Securities Authority, and the group eventually fell apart. Tshuva and Davidson jointly acquired control in Delek Group, but Davidson negged out and Tshuva ended up buying the company on his own.