Israeli gov't gets approval to sell final stake in Bank Leumi

JERUSALEM, June 9 Mon Jun 9, 2014 7:26am EDT

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JERUSALEM, June 9 (Reuters) - Israel's parliamentary finance committee gave approval on Monday for the government to sell its remaining 6.03 percent stake in Leumi, Israel's largest bank, worth about 1.2 billion shekels ($346.78 million).

The sale will happen over the next 12 months in a few stages, with half a percent to be sold to bank employees and the rest to the public, said Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu.

The government bought up nearly all the shares of the country's banks after a crisis in banking shares in 1983.

The country's other top banks -- Hapoalim, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank -- have all been fully privatised.

The state last sold some of its shares in Leumi - a 5 percent stake - in 2011.

Income from the upcoming sale will help reduce Israel's debt-to-GDP ratio, the parliamentary committee said in a statement.

Answering lawmakers questions whether the government, without holding a share, will be able to monitor the bank and influence its operations if needed, Abadi-Boiangiu said: "The state has many ways to deal with the banking system without holding shares in the banks."

The state will gradually sell its stake after trading hours to the highest bidder who can then sell to the public, the statement said. ($1 = 3.4604 Israeli Shekels) (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Tova Cohen)

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