Arison sells Bank Hapoalim shares for $51 mln

JERUSALEM Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:56am EDT

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JERUSALEM Aug 17 (Reuters) - Shari Arison, the controlling shareholder of Bank Hapoalim, sold 176 million shekels ($51 million) worth of Hapoalim shares, the bank said on Sunday.

Arison owns 20.3 percent of Hapoalim, Israel's largest lender, through Arison Holdings and another 1.3 percent through Salt of the Earth Ltd, a unit of Arison Holdings.

Hapoalim said Salt sold 8.75 million shares in a deal outside of the market at 20.12 shekels a share - a discount to Thursday's closing price of 20.52 shekels.

The price fell 1.5 percent to 20.20 shekels on Sunday.

Salt, which had owned 17.1 million shares, sold the tranche to Israeli brokerage Excellence. Excellence had already owned a 3.5 percent stake in the bank and sold the shares on to foreign investors.

Some 71.6 percent of Hapoalim's shares are publicly traded.

Arison has sold Hapoalim shares through Salt a number of times as part of a strategy to reduce leverage while boosting the amount of foreign investors in the bank.

Hapoalim's shares have risen more than 20 percent since the start of 2013. Most shares are held by Israeli institutions but foreign demand has been growing of late.

($1 = 3.4857 Israeli shekel) (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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