Azrieli Bidding for Cerberus & Gabriel’s Bank Leumi Stake

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Azrieli Group said on Sunday it had bid for part of Cerberus Capital Management’s and Gabriel Capital Corp’s 9.8 percent stake in Bank Leumi (LUMI.TA).

In a statement, Azrieli — controlled by Canadian businessman David Azrieli — did not provide further details of the bid.

“We believe in the potential of Bank Leumi and are proud to be a partner in the path to its potential,” Azrieli said.

Israeli media said Azrieli was the sole bidder for the stake in Israel’s largest bank.

Azrieli has numerous investments in Israel, including several shopping malls.

Bids were due last Thursday but the deadline was extended until Monday in light of auto giant Chrysler’s Chapter 11 filing. Cerberus is part of a group that owns Chrysler.

Newspapers have said the firms decided to sell their stake jointly to boost liquidity in the wake of the global financial crisis and the Bernard Madoff scandal.

Money management firm Gabriel is run by Ezra Merkin, who has been charged by New York’s attorney general with secretly placing $2.4 billion of client funds with swindler Madoff.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to running Wall Street’s biggest investment fraud involving as much as $65 billion over 20 years, including billions from “feeder funds” like Merkin’s.

As part of the government’s privatisation programme, Cerberus and Gabriel bought the stake in Leumi from the state in 2005 at 16.5 shekels a share.

Leumi’s shares were up 2.2 percent in afternoon trading at 10.78 shekels. ($1 = 4.16 shekels) (Reporting by Steven Scheer)