Bank of Israel cancels host of banking fees

The Bank of Israel yesterday said it was ordering banks to reduce or limit the fees they charge for a range of activities and customers in a bid to increase competition for short-term savings. Certain charges for households and small businesses will be limited under the new rules, such as changing the payment date on a credit card and getting a cash withdrawal card, all of which go into effect January 1. In addition, the Bank of Israel said securities deposit management fees for Makam and money-market funds would be canceled. Limitations are being placed on bank fees for securities-related activities. Supervisor of Banks David Zaken said the changes will improve "the position of households and small businesses" and vowed to improve product and service offerings by the banks and ease the transfer of accounts from one bank to another. (TheMarker Staff )

MyHeritage buys Geni.com as it expands into the U.S.

Family networking and genealogy website MyHeritage said it bought rival Geni.com as it continues to expand into the United States. The Israeli company did not disclose how much it paid for Los Angeles-based Geni.com but said it was an eight-figure deal in a combination of cash and equity. MyHeritage, which helps people delve into their ancestry and connect with long-lost relatives, is second in the sector behind market leader Ancestry.com, which agreed last month to be bought for $1.6 billion by a group led by Europe-based private equity firm Permira Advisors LLC. MyHeritage also said it raised $25 million in a funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, while existing investors Index Ventures and Accel Partners also participated. The company has raised $49 million in total. (Reuters )

October unemployment rate edges up to 7%

The unemployment rate continued its steady march higher in October, reaching 7% of the labor force over age 15, from 6.9% in September and 6.8% in August, the Central Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. The number of employed people edged down 0.3% from September, to 3.38 million. But among people aged 25 to 64, which largely excludes those serving in the army or studying, the jobless rate declined in October to 6% from 6.2% the month before, the CBS said. The labor force participation rate, which measures how much of the working age population is employed or looking for a job, dropped to 59.4% in October from 59.6% in September, it added. (Haim Bior )

Housing starts plunged 37% in third quarter from a year ago

Israel saw a sharp drop in the number of residential construction starts in the third quarter, with just 7,790 new homes begun, a 37% decline from the same time in 2011, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday. That brought the drop in housing starts for the first nine months of the year to 20% or a total of 28,130, compared with the same time last year, it said. Executives in the building industry expressed concern about the decline, which comes as the Bank of Israel is seeking to head off what it says are signs of a housing bubble. "If the supply of land is low, limited and expensive it will cause developers to build homes only for people upgrading to better housing and the better off," said one builder. "We're talking about very worrying figures." (Nimrod Besso )

Retalix to be acquired by NCR

The Ra'anana-based retailing software developer Retalix is being sold to the U.S.
software and ATM giant NCR for a cash purchase price of $30 a share, which translates into a price tag of about $650 million. In a statement on the purchase, NCR said it had "a definitive agreement" to acquire the Israeli firm and called the company "a strong, strategic fit for NCR," noting that Retalix's software and services are in use at over 70,000 retail locations in more than 50 countries. NCR said the Israeli firm, which was founded in 1982, would be merged with an NCR subsidiary. The transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013, subject in part to approval by Retalix shareholders, NCR said.