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Bank Hapoalim eyes buying Israel Discount Bank's New York unit

JERUSALEM, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Bank Hapoalim, Israel's largest bank, said it was examining the possibility of buying rival Israel Discount Bank's New York unit.

It said it was "working to advance the process that will allow the bank to complete the necessary checks regarding Discount Bancorp," in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Thursday, without elaborating.

Discount Bancorp is the holding company that owns Israel Discount Bank of New York.

Discount, Israel's third-biggest bank, has said it may sell all or part of its New York business to shore up its balance sheet. Net income at its New York subsidiary slipped to $42.7 million in 2012 from $45.8 million in 2011, while total assets rose to $10 billion from $9.5 billion.

Israeli media reports say that Hapoalim is seeking to buy the unit to expand its overseas operations since growth in Israel is limited. Hapoalim already has branches in New York, as well as in Miami, London, Paris and Zurich and has representative offices in Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Earlier this week, Discount's controlling shareholders sold a 7 percent stake in the bank and plan to sell more.