JERUSALEM, Feb 26 (Reuters) -
* Bank Hapoalim unit Isracard, Israel’s largest credit card company reported an 8 percent increase in profit in 2017, boosted by higher revenue stemming from a rise in the number of cards issued.
* Isracard earned 299 million shekels ($86 million) last year, up from 276 million in 2016.
* Revenue grew 6 percent to 2.2 billion shekels.
* In the fourth quarter, net profit fell 38 percent to 29 million shekels.
* The amount of cards in circulation stood at 5.05 million at the end of 2017, up from 4.89 million in 2016.
* Israel last year approved new regulations meant to increase competition in the sector by prohibiting the country’s top two banks from owning credit card companies.
* Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, in October hired Citi to lead the sale of Isracard to either an investor or in the capital market.
* It has said it was looking into three options - selling shares of Isracard to the public, selling it to an investor or group of investors, or distributing its shares as a dividend to Hapoalim stakeholders.
* The bank has three years to sell the unit - or four years if it sells Isracard to the public.
* Number two bank Leumi will have to sell its LeumiCard unit.
* ($1 = 3.4866 shekels) (Reporting by Steven Scheer)