MIAMI-Shares in an Israeli company that made a bad bet on local real estate have fallen by a third after the firm’s owner said the company might have trouble paying off billions of dollars in debts around the world. Africa Israel Investments, in which billionaire diamond baron Lev Leviev owns a 75% stake, has lost some $1.4 billion over the past year and a half, battered in large part by soured real estate investments in the US and Russia, reports the Miami Herald.

Miami was at the center of Africa Israel’s declining US portfolio. The company partnered with Shaya Boymelgreen to scoop up large chunks of Miami commercial real estate five years ago.

After buying out Boymelgreen last year, Africa Israel watched the value of its holdings drop sharply. At the end of 2008, it knocked $173 million off the value of its newly opened Marquis condo tower in Downtown Miami and another $69 million off the value of vacant lots nearby, according to corporate filings. The two write-downs account for about a third of the real estate write-downs the company recorded in 2008.

Most recently, Africa Israel agreed to sell seven acres in Miami’s Park West neighborhood to developers of Miami Worldcenter for $39 million, taking a $50-million price cut on the property. The deal is slated to close by Sept. 14.

Click here to read the full story from the Miami Herald.

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