Tamar
The platform at the Tamar offshore gas field. Photo by Albatross
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Egypt wants arbitration resolved to allow gas exports from Israel

The Egyptian government linked possible agreement to an arrangement whereby partners in Israel’s Tamar natural gas field would export gas via a liquefied natural gas plant in Egypt to resolution of outstanding international arbitration. The partners in Tamar would export up to 2.5 trillion cubic feet of gas over 15 years via the plant, according to a letter of intent signed earlier this month with Union Fenosa Gas — a joint venture between Spain’s Gas Natural and Italy’s Eni that operates the plant in Damietta. The Union Fenosa Gas plant went idle in 2012 due to a lack of gas supply from the Egyptian government. The LNG plant filed a complaint with the International Chamber of Commerce last year alleging that a state partner had failed to comply with the contracts. (Reuters)

Cellcom beats profit forecasts ...

Cellcom, Israel’s largest mobile phone operator, reported a 70% jump in quarterly profit due in part to cost-cutting measures implemented as the company faced intensified competition. Net profit rose to 114 million shekels ($33 million) in the first quarter from 67 million shekels ($19 million) a year earlier, Cellcom said yesterday. Revenue dipped 10.2% to 1.13 billion shekels ($327 million). Cellcom was forecast to earn 86 million shekels ($27 million) on revenue of 1.18 billion ($342 million), according to a Reuters poll. The company’s selling, marketing, general and administrative expenses fell 15.6% in the quarter due to efficiency measures, which led to a decrease in payroll and other expenses. Finance costs fell 41% due to a drop in interest expenses. (Reuters)

... as does its major competitor, Partner

Partner Communications, Israel’s second-largest mobile phone operator, posted a 68% jump in quarterly profit partly due to cost-cutting measures implemented in the wake of tough competition that has sent calling rates tumbling. Net profit rose to 52 million shekels ($15 million) in the first quarter from 31 million a year earlier, above an estimate of 46 million shekels ($13 million) in a Reuters poll of analysts. Finance costs decreased by 51% in the quarter due to lower interest expenses, while operating expenses fell 8 percent. Revenue declined 4% to 1.13 billion shekels ($327 million). Revenue from equipment sales in the quarter grew by 24%. (Reuters)

Leumi in deal with major Chinese credit firm

Good news for Chinese tourists in Israel: Leumi Card signed a deal yesterday that will allow China’s UnionPay card holders to make purchases and withdraw money from Bank Leumi cash machines across Israel. This makes it the first card company to allow UnionPay, China’s largest credit card firm, in Israel. Within a year, UnionPay card holders will have access to more than 40,000 merchants and 360 automated teller machines (ATMs) in Israel, the companies said in a statement. (Reuters)

TASE closes down amid financial reports

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange finished yesterday’s trading session with losses, as U.S. indexes opened in the red. First-quarter financial reports were being published throughout yesterday’s trading session, and in the morning, Israel’s largest cellular communication firms — Cellcom and Partner — announced profits that beat forecasts. Cellcom’s share price gained 5%. The Tel Aviv-25 Index closed down 0.1% at 1,384 points, while the broader Tel Aviv-100 Index closed down 0.5% at 1,253. The Banks-5 lost 0.2%, while the Real Estate-15 bucked the trend and gained 0.3%. Total turnover was a particularly low 829 million shekels ($240 million). Notable losers included Photomedex, leading the Tel Aviv-100 downward with a 6% loss. The biomed company has lost 20% of its share value since the start of the month. On the positive side, EZChip stood out with a 9% gain after publishing positive financial reports. (Eran Azran)