Oct.15, 2012 | 4:11 AM–Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media mogul who once shared control of Bezeq, is weighing a return to the telecommunications industry.
Ilan Ben-Dov’s holding company Scailex said yesterday that it was in talks with Saban to sell him its controlling 44.5% of Partner Communications. But the company added it was also in negotiations with otherparties to sell the stake – and that the talks with Saban had not yet yielded any agreement.
“The company is holding talks with the Saban group and simultaneously 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.”
Meanwhile, TheMarker has learned that Saban also previously explored buying control of Cellcom Israel. His representatives held talks with Nochi Dankner’s IDB group, Cellcom’s parent company, but the discussions stopped short because Dankner sought too high a valuation for the company.
Both Ben-Dov and Dankner are carrying massive debts and need to find cash quickly. Ben-Dov was close to selling Partner back to the Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa in the summer, before the latter rescinded its offer.
News of the talks between Scailex and Saban lifted the shares and bond prices for all the companies involved in trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday. Partner stock jumped 7.4% to NIS 21.80, raising its market valuation to NIS 3.4 billion. Scailex soared 41.8%, while its bonds rose as much as 12%, although that still left them at junk yields of up to 80%.
Of Scailex’s Partner shares, 16% of the 44.5% are pledged to bondholders and 12% to Hutchison, which made a $300 million loan to Scailex to buy Partner from it three years ago.
If Saban does agree to buy Partner, he will acquire it in stages, taking the 16.6% of Scailex’s Partner shares that are unpledged for a sum of NIS 550 million to NIS 650 million, or NIS 22 to NIS 25 each.
Meanwhile, Saban reportedly will open talks with Bank Leumi about buying its 5% Partner stake at the same price, or a total of NIS 200 million. Likewise, he will try and buy out other major Partner shareholders, such as Migdal Insurance and the investment house Excellence.
Market sources believe Leumi would answer favorably to an offer of NIS 25 a share, but the bank has not yet been approached…Read More>>