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Diamond tycoon Benny Steinmetz and World Group Holdings, controlled by Zvika Barinboim, are in â€œadvanced negotiationsâ€ to purchase a 52.5 percent stake in Housing and Construction Holding Co. (Shikun uâ€™Binui), for NIS 950 million, the two investors said in a joint statement Sunday.
Steinmetz and Barinboim are looking to buy the shares from Arison holdings, which holds 35.5% of the company, and workers at Housing and Construction who own a 17% share. The deal would give Steinmetz the largest stake in the construction group.
The negotiations are being conducted based on a price of NIS 4.5 per share, agreed to by both sides, reflecting a company value of NIS 1.81 billion, and a premium of 34% over the price at the close of trading on Thursday before reports of the sale broke.
Shares in Housing and Construction rose 20% to NIS 4.01 in Tel Aviv Sunday, their highest level in five years. Shares of investment company World Group rose 5.6% to NIS 4.75 on news of the talks.
Israelâ€™s largest construction group, Housing and Construction operates through its five subsidiaries Solel-Boneh Building and Infrastructure; Solel-Boneh International; its residential development unit Shikun-Ovdim; Herouth Engineering & Systems (focusing on utilities installation); and Lime & Stone Production, which manufactures building materials. It also owns a third of the Derech-Eretz Highways consortium, which is building the cross Israel toll road at a cost of $1.3 billion.
The company had a loss of approximately NIS 24m. on revenue of NIS 3.6b. in 2004.
The Arison Group, controlled by billionaire heiress Shari Arison, first expressed its interest to sell the shares in 2000 as part of a strategy to focus its activities in the finance, communications and hi-tech sectors. Arison inherited the company from her father Ted Arison, the late founder of cruise operator Carnival Corp., who acquired the stake in Housing and Construction from the Histadrut in 1994 for NIS 300m. Arison is also the biggest shareholder in Bank Hapoalim Ltd., Israel's largest lender, with a 16.5% stake.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.