Lapid transfers NIS 50m to forestall cuts in assistance to Holocaust survivors

Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday ordered an immediate NIS 50 million transfer and budget increase for assistance to Holocaust survivors. The move enabled the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel to freeze a looming cut in caretaker hours to 6,000 disabled survivors. The foundation’s general manager Rony Kalinsky congratulated Lapid on his “first governmental decision as finance minister, demonstrating a deep commitment to the population of Holocaust survivors in Israel.” There are 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel according to the foundation. ‏(Moti Bassok‏)

Avner Mendelson to be appointed CEO of Leumi USA

Avner Mendelson, head of Bank Leumi’s group strategy division, is about to be appointed CEO of Bank Leumi USA, TheMarker has learned. Mendelson, 38, will be replacing Itzhak Eyal, 66, who has served in the position since October 2010 and is slated to retire at the end of the year. Mendelson also serves on the board of Leumi USA and is therefore well versed in its operations. Armed with an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he arrived at Leumi seven years ago and served as former CEO Galia Maor’s assistant and bureau chief. Leumi confirmed to TheMarker that Eyal will be retiring but would not comment on his replacement. ‏(Michael Rochvarger‏)

Orbotech wins $18 million in new contracts

Yavneh-based optical inspection systems manufacturer Orbotech said on Thursday that it has been awarded two new contracts from printed circuit board makers in Taiwan and China worth a total of $18 million. Representing 18% of fourth quarter 2012 revenues, this is a boon for the company, which is trading at a market valuation of $400 million on Nasdaq but suffering from a lackluster market. The company’s PCB quality control system sales dropped 20% in the last quarter to $42 million. Its sales of optical inspection systems for LCD, plasma, smartphone and other flat display screens accounted for $18 million in sales in the fourth quarter, down 60% from the year before. ‏(Oren Freund‏)

Accel launches $475m venture fund for Israel and Europe

The venture capital firm Accel Partners said on Thursday it has raised $475 million for its new fund, Accel London 4 fund that will focus on Europe and Israel. The firm traditionally invests about 20% of its capital in Israel and the fund will likely follow the same policy. The fund has invested in the past in companies like Fiverr, MyHeritage and myThings. “Israel continues to generate some of the world’s most exciting technology companies, and with our new fund we’ll continue identifying the most innovative companies in the market and finance their international growth and expansion,” said Bruce Golden, a partner at Accel London. ‏(Inbal Orpaz‏)

Better Place posts $251 million Q4 loss

Better Place, which is developing a system for refueling electric cars, says it lost $251 million in the last quarter of 2012, more than three times the $73 million it lost a year earlier. The company, which was founded by Shai Agassi and whose biggest shareholder is The Israel Corporation, lost $454 million over all of 2012, bringing its losses since its founding to $812 million. The quarterly loss in included a $191 million provision for restructuring and for a decline in the value of assets in Israel. ‏(Yoram Gabison‏)