Gem of an offer

Diamond mogul eyes stake in cabler Israel Plus

JERUSALEM — Israeli diamond tycoon Lev Leviev has offered to help bail out local Russian-language cabler Israel Plus, which has been losing money since its launch last November.

Leviev has proposed his Memorand Management buy half of conglomerate Africa Israel’s 42% stake in the ailing channel for 10.8 million shekels ($2.4 million). Leviev owns a controlling stake in Africa Israel.

Uzbekistan-born Leviev is best known internationally as the man who challenged diamond giant De Beers’ control of the world’s diamond market.

Aimed at Israel’s 1 million Russian immigrants, who make up 20% of the population, Israel Plus lost $7.2 million in the first half of 2003.

Leviev told local newspapers the offer was an expression of his faith in Israel Plus’ potential.

Earlier this month, Israel Plus’ management complained to Israel’s Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting that it was subject to unfair competition for ads from Russia-based rivals such as ORT and RTVi.

In response, the council has proposed that ads targeted at Israeli audiences on foreign channels broadcasting to Israel be cut to 15% of ad volume against a current 25%.

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