Israeli businessman Eliezer Fishman has become a substantial investor in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-traded IDB Holding Corporation.

In compliance with the law governing substantial investors, Fishman today advised the TASE that he now owns a 5.07% equity interest in IDB Holding. He bought the shares at prices ranging from NIS 88.3 to NIS 105.

The market cap of IDB Holding has climbed to NIS 4.1 billion, pricing Fishman's interest at NIS 208 million.

Earlier in April, the market whispered that Fishman wanted to acquire a substantial interest, defined under Israeli law as over 5%, in IDB Holding. At the time Fishman already held about 4% of the company's share capital. Fishman apparently bought shares on and off the floor. He is expected to increase his stake to as much as 15%.

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Market players do not believe Fishman wants to obtain a controlling interest in the company. They believe he is preparing for a takeover by another substantial investor in the stead of Oudi Recanati, who is expected to sell his interest in the company somewhere between 15% to 20% of its share capital. According to this theory, Fishman's interest in IDB Holding is purely financial, based on a plan to sell his shares at a premium.

Currently the IDB group is controlled by two major families, the Recanatis and the Carassos.

The Antitrust Authority would probably prevent Fishman from acquiring control over the IDB group in any case, because of cross-ownership issues. Fishman is an active partner in, or controlling shareholder of, several communications companies, including the cable TV company Golden Channels and the communications company Golden Lines. The IDB group controls another cable TV company, Tevel, and the long-distance calling company and Internet service provider Barak.

Fishman refused to comment on his plans for the IDB stock he holds.