Number of job seekers at Employment Service grew 5.4% in 2012

The number of job seekers appearing at least once in a month at the state Employment Service grew 5.4% in 2012, reaching 192,000 in December, the agency reported Thursday. The last month of the year saw a rise of 0.3% in the number of applicants. However, the number of first-time visitors dropped 0.4% from November, to 12,377. Officials attributed the rise mainly to a 3.2% increase in the civilian labor force last year, a figure that encompasses people age 15 and over either employed or looking for work. Women accounted for 56% of those coming to Employment Service offices, with people aged 55 to 64 comprising the single biggest age group, they said. ‏(Haim Bior‏)

Cyprus issues two gas exploration licenses

Cyprus, whose gas field lies adjacent to Israel’s, licensed Italy’s ENI and South Korea’s Kogas for offshore gas exploration on Thursday. The island nation, which discovered natural gas at sea just over a year ago, issued licenses covering three offshore areas lying south and southeast of Cyprus to a consortium made up of both firms. Cyprus sits in the Levant Basin, an area of the eastern Mediterranean thought to be rich in largely untapped reserves. U.S. Noble Energy reported discovering between 5 trillion and 8 trillion cubic feet in Cyprus’s first attempt to find natural resources offshore in December 2011.”The discovery of hydrocarbons ‏(around‏) Cyprus, in conjunction with those found in the wider Mediterranean region, create new realities and prospects for the country,” Cypriot Energy Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis said. ‏(Reuters‏)

Mellanox offers disappointing outlook for first quarter

The semiconductor company Mellanox Technologies saw its shares plunge on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Thursday after it projected first-quarter sales well under what the market had been forecasting. The company warned that it sees revenue of between $78 million to $83 million, versus the $129.5 million analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had projected. For fourth-quarter 2012, however, Mellanox exceeded expectations, with adjusted earnings reaching $30.7 million, or 69 cents a share, compared to $13.08 million or 31 cents per share last year. Revenue climbed 68% to $122.12 million. “Our results were impacted by a weaker demand environment, challenging macroeconomic conditions, a build-up of inventory - and a technical issue which was resolved during the quarter,” CEO Eyal Waldman said. ‏(Reuters‏)

Health Ministry shuts down umbilical cord blood bank

The Health Ministry has shut down the operations of the privately-owned umbilical cord blood bank Biocord - also known as LifeBank - and ordered the company to move its two freezers, containing 2,400 samples, to an alternate facility within 30 days. Earlier this month, TheMarker reported that the ministry ordered the company, owned by Miki Shacham, to stop collecting new samples after inspections found that it was operating without proper ministry approvals, lacked a medical director as required or any quality assurance mechanisms, and had various other shortcomings. TheMarker’s report also said that freezers containing the blood samples were being kept at a furniture warehouse in Rishon Letzion rather than at a medical center, as advertised by the company. ‏(Ronny Linder-Ganz‏)

Egging on: Distributor ignores order to halt operations

Yossi Eggs is continuing its marketing activities despite having its license revoked, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The ministry is warning the public against buying eggs stamped by the company, which had been selling 10 million eggs a month when it operated legally, for an 8% market share. The warning followed a probe by the ministry’s Animal and Plant Inspection Unit. The company’s license was suspended several weeks ago, following the arrest of owner Yossi Amar in August on suspicion of smuggling eggs into Israel from the Palestinian Authority. The Agriculture Ministry bans the sale of eggs originating from outside Israel’s borders, as eggs are a sensitive product in terms of health when not kept at a suitable temperature. The ministry urged the public to buy eggs only from reputable vendors and kept at temperatures no higher than 20 degrees Celsius. It also said they should be checked for an expiry date and the name of the sorting plant. ‏(Ora Coren‏)

GGR Israel becomes first Israeli-owned gas drilling operator

A group of Israeli investors is buying 90% of GGR Israel, a subsidiary of the Canada-based GGR group, for NIS 3 million. GGR will retain 10% ownership. The group of investors includes Samy Katsav, Shlomo Shmeltzer and Shlomi Fogel, owners of Israel Shipyards, which provides shore services and logistic support to Noble Energy, a partner in the Tamar and Leviathan gas discoveries. The group also includes Ken Stanley, the drilling manager at Noble Energy Israel and an owner and manager at Houston Drilling Management. ‏(Eran Azran‏)