Israel’s Bank Leumi, Dubai’s DP World to explore regional shipping cooperation

Israel’s Bank Leumi and the Dubai-based DP World signed a memorandum of understanding Monday to explore working together on increasing trade between Israel and the rest of the Middle East via shipping, the two companies said.

The MOU includes a framework for cooperation on developing ports and logistics infrastructure in Israel, DP World said in a statement.

It includes the possibility of financing to develop Israel’s port sector, said Leumi, one of Israel’s two largest banks, in a statement of its own.

The announcement comes after a White House ceremony last Tuesday saw Israel sign deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations.

Ahead of the signing ceremony, Bank Leumi said it had signed two cooperation memorandums of understanding with UAE’s First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and the Emirates NBD bank of Dubai.

A day later DP World said it would partner with an Israeli firm in a bid to take over the country’s Haifa port, the largest shipping hub for the nation.

DP World said in a statement at the time that it had signed memorandums of understanding with DoverTower, a company owned by Shlomi Fogel, the co-owner of Israel Shipyards and the Port of Eilat.

The two firms also will explore creating a direct shipping route from Dubai’s massive Jebel Ali port to Eilat, the statement said.

The government in January voted to move forward with privatizing the Haifa port, with the hope that a new owner would invest some $292 million in upgrading it.

DP World runs operations as far east as Brisbane, Australia, and as far west as Prince Rupert, Canada. The company has expanded aggressively into East Africa, helping the Emirati government wield influence farther afield. Moving into Israel will expand that footprint.

But with the coronavirus pandemic shutting borders and disrupting global supply chains, DP World’s profits fell 56 percent during the first half of the year. Months before, DP World started delisting from the Dubai stock exchange, returning the company to full state ownership to help the Dubai government’s investment company repay more than $5 billion to banks.

DP World ultimately will be held by a wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai World, a government investment company.