An Israeli court ruling in a dispute over the government’s “golden share” in the nation’s largest shipping company Zim could enable a restructuring deal to go through, the company said on Wednesday.
The court ruled the government could keep its golden share, which gives it veto power over some major decisions, while raising the amount of stock shareholders are allowed to sell without government approval - a reference to conglomerate Israel Corp, which has just under 100 percent of the equity.
Israel’s Finance Ministry said it would examine the decision by the court in Haifa and was weighing whether to appeal.
The ruling called for Zim to seek authorisation for shareholders to sell 35 percent or more of its stock, rather than a current 24 percent. But it must notify the government before shareholders could sell between 24 and 35 percent of the shares and give the state 21 days to state any objections.
Zim, which like other shipping companies has been hit hard by a faltering global economy in recent years, welcomed the decision, saying in a statement it “provides a possibility to continue with the processes of debt restructuring and revival of the company.”
The fate of the golden share had been holding up implementation of a restructuring plan drawn up after Israel Corp reported a net loss of $62 million in the first quarter.
The company’s shareholders have already approved a proposed $3 billion plan under which Israel Corp’s stake in Zim will fall to 32 percent after a $1.4 billion debt-to-equity conversion agreement with creditors.
Zim - originally a government company that was sold to Israel Corp - had asked the state to give up its golden share, but Finance Minister Yair Lapid declined to do so.
In its response to the ruling, a ministry statement praised the court’s decision to give “great weight” to the importance of the government keeping a say regarding crucial state interests in the company.
The ministry added it was also “studying the decision to see whether it provides a full answer under the circumstances and whether there is room to appeal it.”
The golden share ensures that Zim will continue to operate ships in and out of Israel during times of emergency and also gives the government the power to approve any decisions that could affect the “Israeli identity” of the company, the ministry said in June.
February 19, 2015
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