Bank Hapoalim moving to appoint underwriters for NYSE offering

Merrill Lynch and Lehman Bros. considered most likely choices
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Bank Hapoalim has begun moves to appoint underwriters to lead its offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

Market sources believe that Hapoalim's favorites are Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, which led its last offering in May 2000. The sources do not believe that Hapoalim will opt for Goldman Sachs, its first choice when planning to hit the NYSE back in 1998. That plan was shelved because of the market crisis that year.

Hapoalim's board of directors agreed last Thursday to allow the bank to holds talks ahead of an NYSE offering. Hapoalim apparently hopes to raise up to $300 million in order to finance its expansion in Israel and in the United States. The offering would also improve its minimum capital ratio and free the shareholders to distribute dividends.

Bank Hapoalim today is traded at a market cap of $3.8 billion in London and on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.