Israel's Delek to sell insurer Phoenix to private equity firms

Delek Group signed a binding agreement for the sale of 32.5% of insurer Phoenix Holdings for 1.72 billion shekels ($476 million) to private equity firms Centerbridge Partners and Gallatin Point Capital.

TEL AVIV, May 23 (Reuters) - Delek Group DLEKG.TA signed a binding agreement for the sale of 32.5% of insurer Phoenix Holdings PHOE1.TA for 1.72 billion shekels ($476 million) to private equity firms Centerbridge Partners and Gallatin Point Capital.

The buyers will pay 1.6 billion shekels, or 20.6 shekels a share, for a controlling 30% stake, as was agreed in a non-binding deal announced in February.

Delek, one of Israel's largest business groups, said on Thursday it would arrange for the buyers to purchase another 2.5% of Phoenix for 120 million shekels.

The final amount could include an increase of up to 860 million shekels or a decrease of 200 million based on future returns for the buyers, and Delek said it will arrange a five-year loan to fund half the acquisition. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

Delek, a partner in large offshore natural gas projects, is being forced to divest from Phoenix due to regulation that prohibits conglomerates from holding stakes in both financial and non-financial businesses.

Several deals Delek reached with potential buyers for Phoenix fell through due to concern by Israeli regulators over some foreign groups, namely from China, taking over the company. Phoenix is a leading manager of Israeli pension funds.

($1 = 3.6148 shekels)

(Reporting by Tova Cohen Editing by Steven Scheer)

((tova.cohen@thomsonreuters.com; +972-9-899-0222; Reuters Messaging: tova.cohen.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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