The patience of the bank consortium, regarding everything to do with businessman Gad Zeevi and repayment of his huge $733 million loan for the acquisition of a 20% stake in Bezeq (TASE: BEZQ ), ran out today.
The consortium, led by Bank Hapoalim(TASE: POLI ) and including Bank Leumi Le-Israel(TASE: LUMI ), First International Bank, Israel Discount Bank (TASE: DSCT ), Mercantile, Union Bank of Israel (TASE: UNON ) and Mizrahi (TASE: MZRH ), petitioned Tel Aviv District Court to order the seizure of collateral covered by two bonds the consortium holds from two of Zeevi's companies.
One of the bonds mortgages the Bezeq shares Zeevi bought in 1999 from British telephone company Cable & Wireless (LSE:CW) for $643 million. Those shares now represent a 19.2% stake in Israel's state-run phone company. The banks asked the court to appoint a receiver to exercise the bonds.
The banks' threat to appoint a receiver has hung over Zeevi's head for quite some time. The petition states that repayment of the loan and interest were to take place in December 2001. On December 12 last year, First International Bank informed Zeevi he had breached the terms of the loan and the debt and interest must be repaid immediately. The consortium therefore used two guarantees it held for $160 million, which was paid by FIBI Switzerland and the debt was reduced accordingly.
At the beginning of April First International told Zeevi the rest of the debt was due immediately and must be paid within five days. The sides began negotiations n an attempt to prevent the seizure of the Bezeq shares by the banks, but the talks failed.
The banks claim Zeeviss total debt on the loan is $613.2 million and note that in light of Zeevi¿s failure to pay, the appointment of a receiver is the most efficient way to proceed.
The value of Zeevi's Bezeq shares was NIS 2.17 billion this morning, 27% below the NIS 2.99 billion debt.
A Zeevi group spokesman refused to comment for this report, saying he had no knowledge of any receivership petition.