Viewpoint / Investec, We Barely Knew You

While Galia Maof was sniffing and Eli Yones was mulling, Zadik Bino leaped from nowhere and nabbed the deal.

While Galia Maof was sniffing and Eli Yones was mulling, Zadik Bino leaped from nowhere and nabbed the deal.

First International Bank's acquisition of Investec Israel may seem less sensational than Bino's initial acquisition a year ago of First International itself, because he's buying Investec according to its equity value, while he got First International at half its equity value, completely stunning the market. But you can count on Bino to have a plan up his sleeve to create value.

The word is that Investec, with its 240 workers, will remain independent, serving as First International's private banking arm.

Investec has two other advantages for Bino: a significant segment of the capital market, far beyond its portion in the actual banking system, and shareholder equity of half a billion shekels coupled with a tiny little credit portfolio (Bino loves that). In other words, Investec has a particularly high capital adequacy ratio.

Over time, we may assume that Bino, an experienced banker, will exploit the potential of the bank merger to save costs on wages and computerization. That means Investec's disappearance from the banking horizon is just a matter of time.

Investec will thus inevitably join a not-small list of banks that passed on, in one way or another, in recent years. Carmel Bank was acquired by Union Bank of Israel. Maritime and PKO (Pekao) were swallowed in a gulp by Bank Hapoalim, as was Continental Bank. Industrial Development Bank died at an agonizingly slow pace and Trade Bank collapsed courtesy of that quarter-billion embezzlement by clerk Etti Alon. Two wee banking institutions, the Global Investments Bank and Kupat Haoved Haleumi Leashrai Vehisachon Benetania, also closed. Another minnow, Euro Trade, is also slated to shut down.

No less than eight banks have gone the way of all flesh in the space of three years, and more are likely to go. The question is where it will stop - with Bank of Jerusalem, perhaps, with its NIS 362 million shareholder equity, or with Union Bank, with its equity of NIS 1.1 billion?