Leviathan
Leviathan drilling site. Photo by Albatross
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Leviathan partners deny gas reserves lower than estimated

Three of the partners developing the Leviathan natural gas field situated in the Mediterranean Sea denied Sunday that the reserves at the site are smaller than they claimed. The denial follows a report in Sunday’s TheMarker, which said two consulting firms hired by the Energy and Water Resources Ministry had estimated the recoverable gas reserves at the site to be 5% to 10% below the partnership’s estimate. In the best scenario, there are said to be 535 billon cubic meters at the site, and even based on the smaller estimates, it still constitutes the largest find off Israel’s coast. “To the best of the knowledge of the partnership, the [assessment] process has not been completed and, at this stage, not all of the relevant and current information has been taken into consideration,” partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration stated. The remaining partner at the site is Noble Energy of Texas. (Eran Azran)

TASE to launch new high-tech index in May

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange will be inaugurating a new high-tech share index on May 11 that will include the largest technology and biomedical companies listed on the exchange. The index will include companies with a collective market cap of at least 400 million shekels ($115.1 million) and at least 25% of the shares listed will be held by members of the public. Companies carrying out initial public offerings (IPOs) can be fast-tracked onto the index if they have market caps of at least 200 million shekels. The number of stocks in the index will not be limited, but no stock will constitute more than 10% of the index’s value. There are currently 34 companies that meet the index’s minimal criteria – 23 from the high-tech sector and another 11 from the biomedical industry. The public currently holds about 45 billion shekels in stocks that will feature in the index. (Dror Reich)

Big Shopping Centers in advanced talks over Spanish property firm

Big Shopping Centers, a company controlled by brothers Yehuda and Roni Naftali, is in advanced negotiations to acquire a stake in income-producing property in Spain and Portugal through the purchase of a 50% stake in a privately held Spanish company. The Spanish firm is engaged primarily in managing strip shopping centers in the south of Spain. The Spanish firm’s property portfolio is similar to Big’s and currently consists of an estimated 160,000 square meters (about 1,720,000-square-feet) of space, including 15,500 square meters of office space. The properties have an overall 97% occupancy rate. The company’s net value after debt has been set at 221 million euros ($303 million). Big is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at a market cap of 107 million shekels. (Michael Rochvarger)

Strauss family sells 3% of group for 197m shekels

The Strauss family – which collectively controls the Strauss Group, the food conglomerate that includes Strauss dairy, Elite and a range of coffee businesses – has taken advantage of a surge in the company’s stock price and sold off a 3% stake in the company for 196.8 million shekels. The shares were sold at 61.50 shekels per share, while the stock closed Sunday at 64.16 shekels. Following the family’s sale of the 3%, it still owns 65.1% of the company. The Strauss Group’s stock has risen in value by about 28% over the past 12 months, and by more than 100% since August 2012. The company is trading at a market cap of nearly 6.9 billion shekels and reported a profit last year of 234 million shekels on turnover of 5.6 billion shekels, compared to a profit of 244 million in 2012 on 5.7 billion in revenue. (Yoram Gabison)

TASE closes with gains despite NASDAQ losses

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange closed the first day of the trading week with gains Sunday, after reversing course in mid-afternoon. Shares had been trading in the red for most of the day, pulled downward by negative winds on Wall Street over the weekend - the NASDAQ finished Friday’s trading session with a 2.6% loss, its sharpest daily loss in two months. Despite trading down as much as 1% over the course of the day, the Tel Aviv-25 Index of blue-chip stocks ultimately closed up 0.25% at a new high of 1,421 points. The broader benchmark Tel Aviv-100 Index lost 0.1% to close at 1,299 points. Real estate shares gained almost 1%. Total turnover was 678 million. Notable shares included chipmaker TowerJazz, which dropped 5.3% after making significant gains last week. Internet company LivePerson dropped 8.1% on top of losses over the past few weeks.Other notable shares included Alrov Israel and Alrov Real Estate, which lost 0.9% and 1.8% respectively as group founder Alfred Alrov responded to reports that he’d been questioned by police as part of an investigation into allegations that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had committed obstruction of justice. (Eran Azran)