October 14, 2012 / 7:42 AM / 5 years ago

Saban in agreement to buy up to 40 pct of Partner Comm -report

TEL AVIV, Oct 14 (Reuters) - U.S.-Israeli media magnate Haim Saban has reached an understanding with the controlling shareholder of Partner Communications for the acquisition of 35-40 percent of Partner for $400-$450 million, the Calcalist financial newspaper reported on Sunday.

Saban has applied to Israel's major banks to secure $200 million in funding, Calcalist said.

Saban finalised the agreement at a meeting with Ilan Ben-Dov, the controlling shareholder in Partner, Israel's second-largest mobile phone operator, the paper said, adding that attorneys of both parties are exchanging draft agreements and the deal will probably be signed in the next two weeks.

In the initial stage of the deal, Saban will purchase 12-16.6 percent of the company's shares, which are held by Ben-Dov's holding company Scailex, for $140 million.

A spokesman for Scailex declined to comment.

Saban will purchase the shares at 21-23 shekels per share, higher than Partner's closing price of 20.2 shekels on Thursday. Scailex holds 44.5 percent of Partner.

Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, from which Ben-Dov acquired Partner three years ago, has a lien on 12 percent of the company's shares. In August Hutchison pulled out of a deal to regain control of Partner by buying 75 percent of Scailex and analysts said Scailex would seek a new buyer for Partner.

In the second stage, Saban is expected to purchase stock from Partner's other shareholders such as Bank Leumi, while in the third stage he will infuse Partner with capital in return for an allocation of the company's stock. This will leave him with control of 35-40 percent of the company while diluting Ben-Dov's holdings, Calcalist said.

Further down the road, Saban will probably purchase what remains of Ben-Dov's stake in Partner or even make a tender offer and delist the company, the report said.

Saban Capital Group will take over Partner's management, including the appointment of the company's president and chief executive but Calcalist said Haim Romano is expected to remain as CEO.

In 2009 Saban, together with his partners Apax Partners and businessman Mori Arkin, sold a controlling stake in Bezeq Israel Telecom, Israel's largest telecoms group.

$1 = 3.84 shekels Reporting by Tova Cohen

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