JERUSALEM, March 22 (Reuters) - The Bank of Israel allowed Altshuler Shaham Investment House to raise its holding in a banking corporation to 7.5 percent on Wednesday, the second such approval this year.
Israel has responded to pressure from investors to allow investment banks to be able to hold larger stakes in banks so that their shares can be more easily traded by issuing a permit that allows a long-standing limit to be breached.
It permitted investment bank Meitav Dash to increase its holdings in a bank in January.
Institutions had told the central bank, which regulates the sector, that the existing limit of 5 percent prevents them from raising their holdings of bank shares on behalf of the public.
It also adversely impacts trading of bank shares and has a negative knock-on effect on their market values, the central bank said. Israel’s two biggest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, are the biggest stocks on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s (TASE) blue-chip index.
The change in policy enables the controlling shareholders in such institutions managing customers’ funds to hold up to 7.5 percent of a bank, subject to receiving a permit.
“This is a correct and fair policy of the Bank of Israel, similar to an accepted holding of up to 10 percent globally, which works for the benefit of the investing public and also positively influences the tradability of bank stocks and their values,” Ran Shaham, co-CEO of Altshuler Shaham said.
In most advanced economies, including the United States, Britain and France, the holding percentage that requires a permit is 10 percent and in some countries it is 15 percent. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Alexander Smith)