(Adds Elsztain comment on plans for IDB, comment from main
By Tova Cohen
TEL AVIV Dec 17 Argentinian businessman Eduardo
Elsztain and his Israeli partner Moti Ben-Moshe won ownership of
IDB Holding Corp on Tuesday after an Israeli court
approved their rescue plan for the highly indebted conglomerate.
Their takeover, however, will only come into effect after
they disclose the full details of where their financing will
come from, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled.
The decision puts an end to a high-profile battle over who
will head IDB, which through its pyramidal structure controls
several major companies in Israel.
"I think we can cut layers and cut costs and that will be
part of the strategy," Elsztain told Channel 10 News, adding he
believed an Israeli CEO would be appointed to IDB and the future
board of nine directors would include three independents.
Ben-Moshe has in the past said he would provide the judge
with any information required, while IDB's outgoing controlling
shareholder, Nochi Dankner, promised to keep fighting.
Trade in IDB's stocks and bonds was halted just before the
court's decision at 1100 GMT and did not resume for the rest of
the session. Prior to that, its shares were up 11.7 percent on
IDB expanded rapidly over the past decade under Dankner,
whose rival proposal was rejected last week by creditors, but
has been hit hard by slowing economic growth and increased
competition in its markets.
It also suffered losses on some poor investments, such as a
major land deal in Las Vegas sealed just before the U.S. real
estate market crashed and a couple of offshore gas drilling
operations that came up dry.
Dankner, for long one of the most influential businessmen in
Israel, said he still believes he will keep control of IDB.
"I believe in Israel's court system and its decisions, and
the last word has yet to be spoken," he told reporters outside
the courtroom after a deal reached between IDB creditors and the
new owners was upheld.
HEAVY DEBT LOAD
IDB Holding owes bondholders 2 billion shekels ($570
million) and its subsidiary IDB Development owes a
further 5.8 billion.
Since the start of the financial crisis there have been a
number of so-called haircuts by large Israeli companies,
angering pension funds and other institutional investors that
hold the debt, as well as the public and politicians.
"The precedent of IDB redefines the rules of the game
between institutions and controlling shareholders who don't meet
their obligations," said the Psagot Investment House, which led
the bondholders' negotiations.
IDB, whose list of units includes Cellcom, Israel's
biggest mobile phone operator, and leading supermarket chain
Super-Sol, has been selling off stakes in other assets,
like Given Imaging, MA Industries and Credit Suisse
, to raise cash.
Elsztain is chairman and chief executive of IRSA,
Argentina's biggest real estate company. He also serves as
chairman of Cresud , a major agriculture
He initially supported Dankner during the lengthy debt
restructuring process, but in July backed out of the
partnership. On Dec. 9, he and Ben-Moshe won support from 75
percent of the votes of bondholders and bank creditors to take
Their proposal included a cash injection of 650 million
shekels into IDB Development and a 300 million shekel payment,
along with the allocation of 46.7 percent of IDB Development, to
Ben-Moshe has said the funds for IDB would come from units
of his German-based Extra Group - primarily from its energy and
In a 48-page ruling, the judge said the group's creditors
would lose about 30 percent of their investment.
($1 = 3.51 shekels)
(Additional reporting by Steven Scheer and Maayan Lubell;
Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Tom Pfeiffer and David