Israel aims to sell Uzi submachine gun maker Israel Military Industries (IMI) in the next few weeks, with defence contractor Elbit Systems seen as the likeliest buyer, according to the head of the country’s state ownership agency.
“We hope to finish (the sale of IMI) in a few weeks,” Ori Yogev, director of the Government Companies Authority, told Reuters on the sidelines of its annual conference on Tuesday.
A process that began with five bidders is now down to one – Elbit Systems , Israel’s largest publicly traded defence contractor – and Yogev said Elbit could buy IMI as long as it pays what the state is seeking, declining to comment on the asking price.
Israeli media reports have said the government is seeking at least 1.1 billion shekels ($277 million) for IMI but bidders that dropped out believe the stake is worth no more than 700 million shekels.
Yogev also said the government aims to sell a 49 percent stake in the Mediterranen coast port of Ashdod via a flotation on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange during the year. The controlling stake sale is planned for 2020.
It also plans to float 25 to 30 percent of Israel Natural Gas Lines on the TASE this year, and sell a 20 percent stake in the Israel Postal Authority to a private entity in 2016, he said.
The sales are part of a bigger plan announced in late 2014 to sell all or part of eight companies and two ports by 2017, raising around 15 billion shekels, or nearly $4 billion.
Of the 87 companies that remain in government hands, the 10 set to be sold generate nearly 90 percent of their combined revenues, which totalled 69 billion shekels last year.
In 2015, the companies earned a combined 756 million shekels, up from 432 million in 2014 and a loss of 600 million shekels in 2013.
“The companies went from a burden to an asset,” Yogev said.
As part of the sell-off plan, designed to help pay down Israel’s debt and improve operational efficiencies, Israel also aims to float shares in utility Israel Electric Corp, Israel Railways, water company Mekorot, the port of Haifa and defence contractors Rafael and Israel Aircraft Industries.