BoI grants Warburg Pincus permit to control Leumi Card

Leumi Card Photo: screenshot

US private equity firm Warburg Pincus is due to complete the acquisition of Leumi Card from Bank Leumi and Azrieli Group on February 26.

Governor of the Bank of Israel Amir Yaron granted Warburg Pincus a permit to control Israeli credit card company Leumi Card yesterday. The bank said that the permit followed "an in-depth process carried out by the Bank of Israel to examine the Fund’s suitability in terms of credibility, financial strength, financing of the purchase, and the business model planned for the company."

The Bank of Israel further said in its announcement, "The agreement between Bank Leumi and Warburg Pincus was signed in July 2018 as part of the implementation of the Increasing Competition Law, which set out that the two credit card companies owned by the large banks-Leumi Card and IsraCard-would be separated from the parent banks. The objective of the law is to create two independent financial entities that will increase competition in financial services. The separation from Bank Leumi is getting underway about a year before the final date set out in the law."

Bank Leumi and Warburg Pincus expect to complete the deal on February 26.

“After having made an in-depth examination of all aspects of the separation of Leumi Card from Bank Leumi and turning it into an independent financial entity, I have decided to grant the control permit to Warburg Pincus for the purchase of Leumi Card," Yaron said. "The provision of the permit enables the separation of the company and turning it into an independent financial entity, with the objective of advancing the reform in the credit and payments market and introducing competition and financial innovation in this important industry. The entry of international financial entities, such as the firm that is purchasing the company, to the Israeli market is expected to bring know-how, experience, and new tools in the areas of finance and payments, and reflects trust in the development potential of the Israeli financial system. I expect that the new company will use the ability and information it has for the benefit of consumers, while increasing competition and innovation, with an emphasis on credit to small and micro businesses.”

“Today, a new independent financial entity was born in Israel, and we are proud of this," said Supervisor of Banks Hedva Ber. " The Banking Supervision Department views the separation of the credit card companies as a lever for the advancement of competition in the fields of payments and retail credit, and has acted with vigor over the past two years to advance and enable the reform. Since the legislqation of the Advancement of Competition Law, there has been a significant decline in the settlement fees paid by small businesses, which shows the competitive pressure that has already been created in the market."

The $ 2.5 billion deal for the sale of Leumi Card by Bank Leumi (80%) and Azrieli Group Ltd. (TASE: AZRG) (20%) was signed seven months ago. The current owners of Leumi Card intend, however, to distribute a dividend of some NIS 600 million before completion, thereby reducing the consideration for their shares by the same sum.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 21, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Leumi Card Photo: screenshot
Leumi Card Photo: screenshot
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