JERUSALEM (JTA) — Africa Israel Investments stock plummeted after the real estate firm said it could not repay billions of dollars in debt.
Sunday’s announcement by the company, owned by Russian-Jewish billionaire Lev Leviev, caused shares to drop 25.5 percent on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The stock fell another 13.7 percent Monday as the firm floated the idea of renegotiating the terms of its debts with bond holders and banks.
"Our main mistake was the investments in the U.S.," said Leviev, a diamond baron now living in England, told Israel’s business daily Globes.
Africa Israel bought The New York Times building in Manhattan in April 2007 at a cost of $525 million, but the property has depreciated 40 percent because of the world economic crisis, Ha’aretz reported.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday that the Israeli government would not intervene to help Leviev, whose company has faced boycotts because a subsidiary is involved in constructing homes in West Bank Jewish settlements.
Leviev is a major philanthropist for Jewish causes in the former Soviet Union and Israel.