Bank Hapoalim in Talks to Buy Israel Discount Bank’s US Operation
by Joshua Levitt
Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, said on Friday it is in talks to acquire Israel Discount Bank’s U.S. operation, Israel Discount Bank of New York, confirming a year of reports about the off-and-on-again negotiations in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
“Bank Hapoalim is undertaking a review of a possible acquisition of Discount Bankcorp Inc., and it is seeking to move forward in the process to enable the bank to complete the due diligence,” the bank said.
Israeli business daily Globes said on Friday that Discount Bank decided to sell the U.S. subsidiary in order to improve its capital structure, while Bank Hapoalim sees the unit as an opportunity to expand into a stable market. According to other reports cited by Globes, Discount Bank’s asking price is reportedly the value of Discount New York’s equity, or $900 million, but Bank Hapoalim would be paying less.
Discount Bank chairman Yossi Bachar and outgoing CEO Reuven Spiegel initiated the sale of Discount New York, hiring JPMorgan and Sandler O’Neill to advise on the sale, Globes said.
The newspaper said Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi and CEO Zion Keinan want to expand internationally, but not into risky markets, now preferring private banking in Europe, and commercial banking in the U.S.
Israel’s low interest rates, falling bank fees, and falling demand for credit as the economy matures have led to the bank seeking growth abroad, Globes said.