The Dankner group is negotiating to sell 33% of Israel Salt Industries (TASE:SALT) to businessman Yossi Maiman, who controls the Merhav investment group, for $90 million.

Salt Industries commented that the deal will be done at a pre-money price of $273 million, double the company's market value, which is currently $136.4 million.

Maiman will also receive an option to increase his holding to 49.66%, or to the same amount the Dankners hold, whichever is lower.

The transaction has yet to be finalized and no memorandum of understanding has been signed, the company added.

Maiman will probably carry out the deal through Ampal-American Israel Corporation (Nasdaq:AMPL), which he now controls. He bought the controlling interest from the Steinmetz family two months ago for about $83 million.

Salt Industries' key asset has an 11.6% stake in Bank Hapoalim (TASE:POLI), which grants it controls over the bank together with the Arison group.

The deal with Maiman should improve Salt Industries' financials, as its balance sheet is burdened by NIS 1.6 billion borrowed from Bank Leumi to buy the stake in Bank Hapoalim.

The value of the Hapoalim shares Salt Industries holds is about NIS 1.11 billion, which is NIS 600 million below their value in Salt Industries' books NIS 1.72 billion.

In June the Dankner family asked an assessor, Prof. Amir Barnea, to re-examine the value of the Bank Hapoalim shares Salt Industries holds, and to advise whether Salt Industries should make provisions for drop in value.

A week ago

Ha'aretz

wrote that the Dankners are reducing their holdings in various companies from 90% to 70% or 75%. The companies in question include Salt Industries, Dor Chemicals (TASE:DORC) and Dankner Investment (TASE:DKNR). All holdings on the block will command a hefty premium, say sources near the group.

Its purpose is not to reduce the Dankner group's debts or to finance acquisitions by Nochi Dankner, the sources claimed, but to improve the negotiability of the group's companies.

Nochi Dankner heads a consortium that is buying the controlling interest in IDB Holding Corporation (TASE:IDBH) for $525 million, subject to regulatory approval. If the deal goes through, Nochi Dankner will have to sell his holdings in Salt Industries because it owns a stake in Bank Hapoalim, which has extended $900 million worth of credit to IDB Holding Corporation.