Ellern Investments, which is controlled by Shmuel and Avraham Dankner, yesterday signed a $203 million deal to buy the controlling interest in the three companies comprising the Dankner Group: Salt Industries, Dor Chemicals and Dankner Investments.

The transaction is to be completed within three months.

The deal leaves Nochi Dankner with 4.9% in Salt Industries (together with his father, Yitzhak, he owned 17.66%) and David Dankner with roughly 5% in each of the three companies.

Once Nochi Dankner has rid himself of substantial holdings in Salt Industries, he will be able to proceed with the acquisition of IDB Holding Corporation, acting through Ganden Holdings.

Since Salt Industries owns 11.63% of Bank Hapoalim, and since IDB took a $900 million loan from the bank, Nochi Dankner was prohibited from buying the company until now. If the deal with Shmuel and Avraham Dankner comes through, Hapoalim may take part in financing the IDB deal, together with Bank Leumi.

The deal reflects a valuation of $190 million for Salt Industries, $90 million for Dankner Investments and $65 million for Dor Chemicals. The deal still depends on a $100 million financing package, which will probably be provided by Leumi bank and maybe another bank, and on regulatory approvals. Since no new shareholders are being added, the regulator is not expected to mount any difficulties.

Meanwhile, Salt Industries announced yesterday that, according to a valuation prepared by Prof. Amir Barnea, the value of its holding in Bank Hapoalim is NIS 1.865 billion excluding any control premium.

The market cap of the company's holding in the bank is only NIS 1.1 billion, while the value in the company's balance sheet is NIS 1.726 billion.

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