Persistence pays off for Eli Azur: after months of waiting, Azur has bought the Walla! website from Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ). It is estimated that Azur will pay about NIS 60 million. Industry sources say, however, that Walla! has NIS 12 million cash, so that the effective price is lower.
As first reported by “Globes”, two weeks ago, candidates for buying Walla! were presented to the Bezeq board, and even then sources close to Bezeq said that Azur was the leading candidate. The other main one was Channel 13, although there were also talks with Israel Today (Yisrael Hayom) and HOT Telecommunication Systems Ltd. (TASE: HOT).
Azur owns several media assets, among them local radio stations, sports channels, street hoardings, and Hebrew daily Ma’ariv. He will therefore be able to pay for the acquisition with advertising on some of these assets, and on Walla! itself.
Bezeq notified the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in May 2018 of its intention of selling Walla!, but the price it demanded at the beginning was NIS 180 million, which even at the time was seen as unrealistic, although Walla! was then the website with the second highest surfer traffic in Israel. Since 2019, however, Walla! has frozen its marketing activity, and its content creation has shrunk dramatically. For a while, Walla! had substantial assets such as apps, email addresses, and so on, but the decline in advertising because of the coronavirus crisis alongside new competition eroded its advantages.
For Azur, acquiring Walla! means moving up a league in the scope and type of activity of his media business. He is not expected to make radical changes at Walla! In the past, his focus has been on the bottom line. Walla! is a more expensive asset than his previous media purchases, but it is potentially profitable, and Azur will easily be able to cut costs by reducing editorial staff and to improve the content.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on September 15, 2020
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