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Israel’s Union Bank Sells Diamond Portfolio

Jul 14, 2020 9:15 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Israeli finance company Peninsula has agreed to buy Union Bank’s diamond business, pledging to continue offering loans amid a shortage of credit in the domestic industry.

Peninsula will pay between 55% and 70% of the loan portfolio’s value and will take over Union Bank’s premises inside the Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE) in Ramat Gan. The final price will depend on the loans’ total value on the date of completion, Peninsula said in a statement Tuesday announcing the deal.

As of June 30, Union Bank’s diamond portfolio amounted to around $91 million, while its clients’ credit limits totaled $250 million, Peninsula said.

The sale is a major step bringing Union Bank closer to its planned merger with Israeli rival Mizrahi Tefahot. In January, the Israel Competition Authority ruled that either Union Bank or Mizrahi must sell its diamond portfolio to a third party to limit the combined business’s control over the market, in which very few banks are active.

In line with the competition commissioner’s instructions, Peninsula will finalize a policy for granting credit to diamond companies before the transaction completes, the company explained.

“Buying the credit portfolio will allow the company to expand its activities into the diamond lending sector, which has similar characteristics to the company’s current credit activity,” noted Peninsula, which mainly works with small and medium-sized businesses in Israel.

IDE president Yoram Dvash welcomed the move, noting that maintaining competition among lenders was important for the industry.

“I wish Peninsula great success, and thank Union Bank for their long years and important work with the diamond exchange,” Dvash told Rapaport News.

Last week, Dvash wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, highlighting the fragile state of the local diamond industry and the lack of bank lending to the sector. Bank Leumi closed its diamond business in 2014, dealing a harsh blow to the industry, and First International Bank of Israel tightened its lending terms for diamantaires in 2016.

While the coronavirus has devastated the diamond market, the crisis is unlikely to have a significant negative impact on clients’ ability to repay their debt obligations, Peninsula noted. Still, the effects of the pandemic could influence the value of the loan portfolio by the time the acquisition completes, the company cautioned.

Bank Leumi also submitted an offer to buy Union Bank’s diamond portfolio. The company declined to comment Tuesday.

Image: A Union Bank branch in Israel. (Nir Vadel)
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Tags: bank leumi, Banking, Banks, Benjamin Netanyahu, credit, finance, First International Bank of Israel, IDE, Israel, Israel Diamond Exchange, lending, Mizrahi Tefahot, Peninsula, Ramat Gan, Rapaport News, Union Bank, Yoram Dvash
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