Delek Group Ltd. agreed to sell its controlling stake in Phoenix Holdings Ltd., Israel’s fourth-largest insurance provider by market value, to China’s Fosun International Ltd.
The Netanya, Israel-based holding company announced on Sunday it would sell its entire 52 percent stake to a unit of the Shanghai-based conglomerate, according to an e-mailed statement. The purchase price is about $461.6 million plus interest accrued before the deal’s closing date, with other adjustments possible, Fosun said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The maximum payable may be about $489 million, it said.
“It is an important strategic deal for the group and will add 1.8 billion shekels in cash to the company’s coffers,” Asaf Bartfeld, Delek Group chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are in a great starting position to implement our plans and undertake strategic investments in the international energy market, which will be synergistic and complementary to our activities.”
Delek needs to sell its stake in Phoenix to comply with a law passed in December 2013 that prohibits Israeli companies from owning financial services corporations as well as industrial businesses. Sunday’s deal adds to the company’s agreements to sell other units including Delek Europe BV and Barak Capital Ltd. The Phoenix sale is subject to regulatory approval. An accord last year to sell its stake in Phoenix to U.S. company Kushner Funding LLC fell through.
“The sale is part of Delek’s strategy to focus on gas and was expected,” Noam Pincu, an analyst at Tel Aviv-based Psagot Investment House Ltd., said by phone. It “may enable Delek to revive its plan to list shares in London in the medium term.”
Fosun, backed by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, has been on an acquisition spree, buying insurers, energy companies and properties overseas in Australia, Italy and New York. The company will invest in more insurers in Europe and the U.S. in the coming two years, Guo, a self-proclaimed student of Warren Buffett, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York in April.
The transaction adds to growing interest from Chinese investors in Israeli companies. Last week Xio Group, a closely-held Chinese investment firm with more than $3 billion in available capital, agreed to buy Israel’s Lumenis Ltd. for about $510 million in cash. Bright Food Group Co. acquired dairy producer Tnuva Food Industries Ltd. earlier this year in a deal that valued it at more than $2 billion and Alma Lasers Ltd. was bought by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. for $222 million in 2013.
Delek’s shares rose 1.7 percent to 1,228 shekels at the close in Tel Aviv, the highest level since December 1. Phoenix shares increased 3.7 percent, the most since January 27, to 11.16 shekels.