Daily roundup / Chicken prices take wing for Passover
Gazprom suggests floating liquefaction for Tamar; watchdog funding claim against Malrag; Zarasai offering flounders; Fattal buys more German hotels.
Fly high, chicken wings: Passover is approaching like a freight train, ahead of which Israel's food manufacturers have jacked up prices. Among the items suddenly costing a lot more are chickens. After raising prices in December, the two big slaughterhouses – MilouOff and Off-Oz - advised retail chains this week of increases. MilouOff said it is raising the wholesale price of whole chickens by 8.2%. Legs and chicken breast will increase by 20% and wings by 55%. Oddly, Off-Oz is increasing its prices by about the same. A retailer commenting on this practice of raising prices ahead of the holidays, when household shopping typically spikes, pointed out that during the last 7 months the price of chicken products rose by 75%, it's just that nobody really noticed. (In case you wondered, "off" – pronounced "oaf" – means chicken in Hebrew.)
Gazprom negotiating for Israeli gas: Gazprom is in exclusive talks to buy liquefied natural gas from the deep-water Israeli field Tamar, the Russian energy group said on Tuesday. To do so, Gazprom would use a massive, floating LNG vessel that will receive, liquefy and then ship the gas on site. Floating liquefaction could also be used at Leviathan, a nearby and rather bigger field of gas. Gazprom is the world's biggest gas producer and relies heavily on pipeline supplies to Europe, which make up around 80 percent of its revenues. It is keen to expand in the LNG sector to grow in the booming Asian market.
Pull plug on Tao, says state receiver: The official state receiver, David Hahn, opposes extending the stay of proceedings protecting Tao Tsuot. It's time for the court to hear the motion to liquidate the holding company owned by Ilan Ben-Dov, says Hahn in an opinion to the court. The company's proposal to reschedule debt failed to win over a super-majority of bondholders as was needed, Hahn pointed out. Tao's ability to meet its liabilities depends on that of Suny Electronics, another company owned by Ben-Dov that is also trying to rearrange its debt, says the receiver; the upshot could be competition over resources between the bondholders of the two companies. If the court disagrees over liquidating Tao, then it should consider procedurally unifying the two groups of bondholders, Hahn suggests.
Watchdog supporting claim against Malrag: The Israel Securities Authority will be helping to fund a bondholders' lawsuit against the former controlling shareholder and board of the company Malrag, to the tune of NIS 135,000. Insofar as is known, it is the highest amount that the watchdog has handed over to help fund such lawsuits, under a policy instituted by its chairman, Shlomo Hauser, who believes the state should support private enforcement regarding securities. The lead plaintiff claims that when he bought Malrag bonds in 2009, he relied on the company's third-quarter report for that year, which posted cash and equivalents of NIS 27 million. To his dismay, says the plaintiff, in the post-report conference call it turned out that most of that amount was encumbered. The company has already been fined half a million shekels over this affair.
Oil Refineries CEO quitting: Pinhas Buchris wants out. On Wednesday the CEO of Oil Refineries advised the chairman, Akiva Mozes, to start looking for a replacement for him. Buchris, 56, arrived at the company after a long career in the army and several years in the business scene. While he didn't state a reason for his decision, apparently it has to do with tensions with the board and with the parent company Israel Petrochemical Enterprises.
Zarasai offering closes short: At about 3:30 A.M., the U.S.-based Zarasai real estate group revealed the results of its Israeli bond offering to institutional investors. It did not go well. Zarasai raised NIS 260 million, some 20% less than it had planned. Including the public phase of its offering, the company has reduced the total amount it means to raise from NIS 400 million to NIS 340 million.
Fattal chain buys 20 hotels in Germany: David Fattal's hotel group and partners are buying a portfolio of 20 hotels in Germany from Goldman Sachs for around NIS 1.5 billion. Five of the hotels will be changing brand from Best Western, and eight from Holiday Inn, to Leonardo, while seven Holiday Inns will retain their branding for the time being. Fattal already owns 25 hotels in Germany. Despite Europe’s weak economy, overnights in hotels in Germany grew 3.6% last year, with stays by foreign tourists up 8.1% and those by Israelis by 19.2%. The pace of growth is expected to reach 5% annually through 2015.
With reporting by Gabriela Davidovich-Weisberg, Yasmin Gueta, rina Rozenberg, Yoram Gabison, Oren Freund and Reuters