Israel’s Finance Ministry is discussing an initial public offering of a stake in one of the country’s largest companies, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., to help fund a budget stretched by the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.
Discussions are part of planning around the country’s new budget, and currently focus on offering a 25% stake in the company with the goal of raising roughly $1 billion, according to one of the people, who asked for anonymity because the talks aren’t public. The people cautioned that no final decision has been made.
IAI bonds maturing in 2023, which trade on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, extended gains after the news to rise eight basis points as of 5:17 p.m. local time.
After more than a year of political paralysis, Israel swore in a unity government last month to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the new cabinet’s first tasks is to pass the country’s overdue budget, with Israel on track to run the widest deficit in years as a result of a fiscal stimulus package of nearly 100 billion shekel ($28.9 billion).
Government officials have long pushed for the company’s IPO, though progress has been stalled by the lack of government over the past year and concerns that a public offering could expose sensitive security information.
An employer of around 15,000 people worldwide, IAI is also a key provider of defense systems and technology, with business lines ranging from drones and missiles to refurbishing planes and building robots to help tow jets around airports. It co-developed Israel’s Iron Dome defense system against enemy rockets.
A Finance Ministry spokeswoman referred questions to the Government Companies Authority, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for IAI declined to comment.
Over the past two decades, Israel has privatized national assets ranging from the southern port of Eilat to the Bezeq telecommunications firm. Another state-owned defense firm, IMI Systems Ltd., was sold to Elbit Systems Ltd. for about $500 million in 2018.
In 2019, IAI sales were up almost 12% from the year before to reach $4.1 billion, according to an annual report, while net income rose to $86 million after a loss in 2018.
The latest data show the government’s deficit widened to 6% of output in the 12-months through May, with the fiscal gap totaling 46.2 billion shekels in 2020.
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