Standard & Poor's retains Israel's credit rating, despite 2012 deficit

Standard & Poor's said on Thursday that it won't be downgrading Israel's sovereign credit rating, even though last year the government ran a deficit roughly double the initial estimate. The size of the deficit came as no surprise to S&P, which in October projected the government would overspend to the tune of 4% of the gross domestic product, said Elliot Hentov, the S&P analyst in charge of the firm's Israel desk. Operation Pillar of Defense added as much as a 0.25 percentage point to the deficit, S&P said. S&P expects the Israeli economy to grow by 3.1% in 2013 - not including the contribution from natural gas production, which is higher than either the Treasury's (2.5% ) or the Bank of Israel's (2.8% ). Last year S&P upgraded Israel's credit rating - the only one of the international rating agencies that did so. (Moti Bassok )

Israel Chemicals signs potash contracts with China

Israel Chemicals Ltd. said Thursday that it has signed a series of three-year contracts with Chinese customers to supply 3.3 million tons of potash, in a deal reinforcing the company's position as a major supplier of potash to one of the world's three largest markets for the fertilizer. The initial price for the potash was set at $400 a ton for 660,000 tons - to be supplied during the first half of 2013 - worth $264 million. ICL shipped 670,000 tons of potash to China in 2012, but at a higher price of $470 a ton. The new price is identical to the price set last week in a deal by Sinofert, one of China's largest potash importers, for one million tons to be supplied over the next six months by Canpotex, a marketing consortium made up of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and U.S.-based Mosaic and Agrium. Under the framework agreement, the price for future shipments of potash by ICL will be determined periodically according to prevailing prices in the Chinese market. (Yoram Gabison )

Unilever Israel chief steps down after two years

Angelo Trocchia, chairman and CEO of the consumer products company Unilever Israel, is stepping down. Anat Gavriel, currently vice president of sales, is tapped to take his place. Gavriel joined Unilever Israel in 2003 after holding a variety of senior management positions at pharmaceutical companies. She will officially take the role in March. Trocchia is leaving the Israeli position to become CEO of Unilever in Italy. During his two years in Israel, the social protests of summer 2011 forced Unilever to lower prices on some of its products. But this year Unilever was the first Israeli company to announce it was raising prices. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz )