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Bank of Israel retracts demand that Michael Steinhardt sell Maritime Bank holdings

Watchdog growled after the U.S. billionaire obtained a 2.1% stake in Bank Hapoalim

The Bank of Israel on Tuesday retracted its demand that Michael Steinhardt sell his holdings in Maritime Bank of Israel.

Steinhardt heads the group that controls Tel Aviv-based Maritime Bank (38.5%). When Bank Hapoalim was taken over by the Arison and Dankner groups, Steinhardt obtained a 2.1% interest in the bank. The Supervisor of Banks subsequently gave Steinhardt until year-end 2000 to sell his Maritime interest.

The supervisor also forbade Israel's two leading banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, to bid for the Maritime stake.

In the announcement today, Bank of Israel governor David Klein stated that Steinhardt could yet be required to sell his holdings in either Bank Hapoalim or Maritime Bank if he does anything smacking of conflict of interest.

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