Israir (6H, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) has attracted six bids for control of the carrier, Haaretz reported on November 9, the day after the bidding period ended. Among them are a proposal to merge with Arkia Israeli Airlines (IZ, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) and another from Tami Mozes Borovitz, who lost control of El Al Israel Airlines (LY, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) a little over one month ago.

Mozes Borovitz offered to buy Israir for ILS57 million shekels (USD16.9 million) in cash and bonds issued by her company Global Knafaim Leasing, controlled by Knafaim Holdings.

Knafaim Holdings was El Al’s controlling shareholder until Eli Rozenberg, scion of a New York family in the nursing-home business, took a controlling 43% stake in the flag carrier, a move that downsized the stake held by Knafaim - which resisted the takeover - to 15.2%.

Her bid was the lowest of the six. As previously reported, well-known discount-supermarket mogul Rami Levy submitted, together with businessman Shalom Haim, an ILS70 million (USD20.7 million) bid to buy the carrier on October 4. This offer was upgraded to ILS92 million (USD27.2 million) in cash and shares in their publicly traded firm BGI Investments.

Moti Ben-Moshe, a German-Israeli entrepreneur born in Kulashi, Georgia, bid ILS100 million (USD29.5 million) through his energy firm Dor Alon. He is also the owner of Israeli retail and property holding Alon Blue Square, while in Germany he is chairman and chief executive of energy, telecoms, and travel company Extra Holding.

IDB Development, the indebted holding group that owns Israir, has also received an ILS80 million (USD23.6 million) cash offer from former pilot and pilots association chief Koby Brot on behalf of a group of investors including the families Sela and Friedson.

Eduardo Elsztain, a Jewish Argentine businessman who controlled IDB Development until it was seized from him by creditors at the end of September, entered the fray last week with an offer of ILS90 million (USD26.6 million), part of a plan to regain control of IDB sister company Discount Investment.

The top offer, valued at ILS130 million (USD38.4 million), came from Arkia whose owners, the Nakash brothers, propose merging the two carriers and then taking it public.

“A merger between Israir and Arkia would create a strong, dynamic organisation with a large fleet, excellent ground and air staff, a great marketing network and sound financial backing, which would make the merged company a strong and powerful player against expected and existing competition,” pitched Arkia chairman Gadi Tepper.

However, IDB bondholders may not want to endure a lengthy merger process, which could take more than six months and would need antitrust approval. A merger would also mean significant job losses that would be opposed by unions.

Israir and other assets belonging to IDB Development are up for sale in an effort to repay about ILS990 million (USD293 million) in debt to bondholders, who are unlikely to be satisfied with any of the bids. But the offers are likely to be improved as the process whittles them down to two or three, according to Haaretz.

Israir employs 413 people, almost half of whom are on unpaid leave. Its fleet consists of three ATR72-500s (two owned, one leased) and four A320-200s (two owned, two leased), according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module. As of mid-November, it was operating routes from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion to Eilat Ramon (30x weekly), Athens Int'l (12x weekly), Moscow Domodedovo (1x weekly), and Tbilisi (1x weekly), the ch-aviation capacities module shows.

Israir announced two more routes this week, 1x weekly to Kigali starting from November 26, and direct flights to Bahrain Int'l from January 31, 2021, initially 2x weekly.