Business in Brief: Israel’s Budget Deficit Jumps to 3.3% of Gross Domestic Product

Taiwanese company buys 20.5% of Israel’s Camtek ■ Isramco, owner of 28.75% stake in the Tamar gas field, says profits for the field’s partners ■ Tel Aviv shares end higher in day of very light trading

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attends a news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on October 9, 2018.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

Taiwan’s Chroma Ate agrees to buy 20.5% of Israel’s Camtek for $74.3 million

Chroma Ate, a Taiwanese maker of test and measurement equipment, has agreed to buy 20.5% of Israel’s Camtek for $74.3 million in cash, Camtek said on Monday. Chroma will acquire 6.1 million Camtek shares from Priortech, Camtek’s controlling shareholder, for $58.1 million, and another 1.7 million new shares to be issued by Camtek for $16.2 million.The cash portion is based on a price of $9.50 per Camtek share, reflecting a 29% premium on Camtek’s closing price in New York as of February 8. Priortech will be left with a 24% holding in Camtek, a maker of metrology and inspection equipment for the semiconductor industry. Camtek will also license its triangulation technology, a metrology solution, to Chroma for non-semiconductor applications. In addition, Chroma and Camtek agreed to cooperate in potential projects for the semiconductor market. Camtek shares closed up 9.9% at 29.51 shekels ($8.09) in Tel Aviv. (Reuters)

Budget deficit swelled to 3.3% of GDP in 12 months through January

Israel’s budget deficit jumped to 3.3% of gross domestic product in the 12 months through January, from 2.9% in the 12 months through December, the Finance Ministry said Monday. The treasury attributed the increase to a sharp rise in spending in last month that wasn’t accompanied by a parallel increase in revenue. Treasury officials have warned that unless the next government takes action, the deficit this year could balloon to 3.6%, compared with a targeted 2.9%, especially as it seems likely that revenue will undershoot the forecast. Spending in January was 5 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) more than a year earlier, in part due to one-time factors like a subsidy payment to the Egged bus cooperative. The treasury is examining claims that some officials pushed some 2018 spending into 2019 to help reduce what was expected to be an embarrassingly big deficit for 2018 for Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. The January deficit figure seems to bear that out. (Avi Waksman)

Isramco report downgrades future Tamar profits but notes boost in reserves

Isramco, which holds a 28.75% stake in the Tamar gas field, issued a report late Sunday that forecast declining profits for the field’s partners as natural gas prices fall and operating costs rise. But the report, which was prepared by Netherland, Sewell & Associates, also found that Tamar’s reserves were now 12 billion cubic meters more than previously estimated, at 315 bcm. The report lowered estimated annual sales for Tamar to 10.4 bcm from a previous range of 10.35 bcm to 10.65 bcm. It forecast exports to Egypt between now and 2040 at 30 bcm, 5 bcm less than the maximum called for in the Tamar partners’ contract with Egypt’s Dolphinus. Average gas prices will fall to $5.48 per million British thermal units, from $5.80 in its previous forecast, mainly due to a drop in price to Israel Electric Corporation from 2021. Isramco shares ended down 0.7% at 41 agorot (11 cents). (Eran Azran)

Tel Aviv shares gain in more light trading

Tel Aviv shares ended higher in another day of very light trading. The TA-35 and TA-125 indexes each rose nearly 0.4% to end at 1,544.86 and 1,406.26 points, respectively, but turnover was just 905 million shekels ($248 million). Teva Pharmaceuticals was the volume leader, rising 2.6% to close at 68.05 shekels two days before it is due to report fourth-quarter 2018 earnings. Mivtah Shamir climbed 8.2% to 62.35 in unusually heavy trading. Unitronics gained 4.7% to 23.67 after the company announced contracts to build three robotic parking garages in New York for $4.8 million. Mobile operator  shares were down, with Cellcom Israel sliding 2.7% to 19 and Partner Communications off 2.4% to 17.44. Cannabis shares continued to provide a lot of speculative excitement. Cannassure jumped 16.35% to 3.29 and Herodium 16.1% to 13, but InterCure’s rally was cut short and the stock fell 4.4% to 13.57. 
(TheMarker)