Bank Hapoalim warns on profits due to U.S. tax probe

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Bank Hapoalim POLI.TA, Israel's largest bank, said on Thursday it would make a further provision estimated at $70 million for settling a U.S. tax evasion investigation which could have "a significant impact" on its third-quarter results.

The logo of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, is seen at their main branch in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

The $70 million would be in addition to $50 million Hapoalim has already set aside for this matter, in which U.S. authorities are investigating whether it helped American clients evade U.S. taxes at its Swiss unit.

The provision follows a meeting Hapoalim representatives had with members of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sept. 30 regarding a possible settlement between the two sides.

The bank said the provision did not relate to a separate investigation being carried out by the New York Department of Financial Services.

Hapoalim has denied the allegations.

Its main domestic rival Leumi LUMI.TA paid $400 million in fines in late 2014 to settle two investigations into whether it helped U.S. clients evade taxes.

Barclays analyst Tavy Rosner said the final amount Hapoalim might have to pay to the DOJ could be significantly higher.

Noting that this announcement could weigh on Hapoalim’s share price, Rosner said that assuming the $70 million provision is not tax-deductable, his quarterly net profit estimate would need to be revised down to 629 million shekels ($167 million).

The U.S. investigations have weighed on Hapoalim’s shares and are the main justification for Barclays’ “underweight” rating, Rosner said.

“Today’s announcement shows that the bank is now having face-to-face conversations with the U.S. authorities, which could pave the way for a settlement in the coming months, in our view,” he said.

Reporting by Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer; Editing by Greg Mahlich