(Adds details, opinion of court appointed expert, share reaction)
By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM, May 15 (Reuters) - Searchlight Capital Partners moved a step closer to taking control of Israel’s largest telecoms group, Bezeq Israel Telecom, after its parent company said on Wednesday it was satisfied with Searchlight’s latest offer.
The U.S. private investment firm on Tuesday sweetened its bid to buy a controlling stake in B Communications , whose single asset is a 26.34 percent controlling stake in Bezeq.
It offered a total equity investment of 330 million shekels ($92.5 million) in BCom and another 225 million shekels in its parent firm Internet Gold.
Internet Gold has been searching for a buyer for its majority stake in BCom since mid-2018 under pressure from bondholders.
In a regulatory filing in Tel Aviv, BCom said the latest offer will allow it to make a final payment on one of its bond series and enable Bezeq’s share price, which has slid to a two-decade low, to recover, despite the offer reflecting a discount to the market price.
Internet Gold will also be contributing 310 million shekels towards bond repayment.
“The board of directors is of the opinion that the amended proposal that was submitted properly balances the interests of all the relevant parties, solves legal disputes that might have complicated and delayed alternative solutions ... and creates a worthy solution,” BCom said.
It said the deal required a host of approvals, including from bondholders, but added: “We hope the spirit of cooperation will help to pass them all successfully.”
Internet Gold is controlled by Israeli holding company Eurocom, which was issued a liquidation order a year ago by a Tel Aviv court so it can pay back huge debts owed to Israeli banks.
Avishai Ovadia, a court-appointed expert, said that the offer was good for bondholders as long as the deal closed quickly. “I recommend to the judge to accept this proposal,” he wrote.
Bezeq has undergone a reorganisation in recent months following a securities investigation into its management and owners that forced out its former chairman and chief executive.
The company remains the dominant telecoms group in Israel, providing phone and internet infrastructure, while owning three units — mobile phone operator Pelephone, satellite TV firm YES and internet service provider Bezeq International.
BCom’s shares were down 1.3 percent, while Internet Gold’s shares were 2.7 percent lower in afternoon trade in Tel Aviv. Bezeq was up 1 percent. ($1 = 3.5671 shekels) (Reporting by Steven Scheer Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)