TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israeli holding company Scailex Corp (SCIX.TA) said on Sunday it is in talks with the Saban Capital Group regarding a possible sale of its stake in Partner Communications (PTNR.TA), Israel’s second-largest mobile phone operator.
Scailex issued its statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange after the Calcalist financial newspaper reported that U.S.-Israeli media magnate Haim Saban reached an understanding with Partner’s controlling shareholder for the acquisition of 35-40 percent of the company for $400-$450 million.
Shares in Partner were up 6.6 percent to 21.53 shekels in morning trade in Tel Aviv.
“The company is holding talks with the Saban group and in parallel is examining other deals with additional entities,” Scailex said. “No agreements have been reached with any entity and there is no certainty these talks will result in a binding agreement.”
Saban has applied to Israel’s major banks to secure $200 million in funding, Calcalist said, adding that Saban finalized the agreement at a meeting with Ilan Ben-Dov, the controlling shareholder in Scailex. It said 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 Scailex, for $140 million, Calcalist said.
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 (PTNR.O).
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 had 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 (LUMI.TA), 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 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 (BEZQ.TA), Israel’s largest telecoms group.
($1 = 3.84 shekels)
Reporting by Tova Cohen