The Ticker: Buffett Says Decision to Buy Teva Stake Was Taken by Deputies

Elsztain enlists unions to help block sale of Clal Insurance ■ Medical-marijuana shares get lift as lawmakers express support for exports ■ Shares end mixed as bank stage powerful rally

File photo: Warren Buffett speaks during an interview on February 24, 2108.
Nati Harnik/AP

Buffett says decision to buy Teva stake was taken by deputies

Teva Pharmaceuticals shares got a helpful boost two weeks ago when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway revealed it had amassed a 1.8% stake in the troubled drug maker during the fourth quarter of 2017. But on Monday, the legendary investor distanced himself from the decision. In an interview with CNBC television, Buffett said it was Ted Weschler or Todd Combs, his investment deputies, who bought the stock. “Teva’s not a stock that I bought. It’s one of the other two,” adding: “I’ve never talked to him about it and he’ll sell it without telling me.” Some analysts speculated that Berkshire’s stake in Teva could be related to the healthcare cost venture he is forming with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, but Buffett told CNBC that such a tie-up would be the “last thing on my mind.” Teva shares, which logged a double-digit gain the Berkshire disclosure, ended down 1.5% at 68.66 shekels ($19.69). (Yoram Gabison)

Elsztain enlists unions to help block sale of Clal Insurance

Eduardo Elsztain appeared on Monday to be making a bid to force regulators into granting his IDB group an insurance license and let it retain control of Clal Insurance. IDB Development Corporation said it had reached an agreement with the Histadrut labor federation and Clal’s workers’ committee to give all 4,000 Clal employees a bonus that would reach a combined 120 million shekels ($34.4 million), but only under one of two conditions – either IDB’s controlling stake in sold as a single block or IDB gets an insurance license. If IDB’s stake falls below its current 39.8%, there will be no bonus. Capital Markets Commissioner Dorit Salinger has refused to renew IDB’s insurance license and, since IDB has failed to date to find a buyer, she has ordered IDB to sell its Clal shares in blocks of 5%. The next sale would bring IDB’s holdings to under 39.8% minimum thus giving labor unions a strong incentive to oppose the divestment plans. (Assa Sasson)

Medical-marijuana shares get lift as lawmakers express support for exports

Shares of the two medical-marijuana companies traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange briefly surged on Monday after members of the Knesset Economics Committee signaled support for permitting exports. Lawmaker were debating the issue a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to freeze medical-cannabis exports until the matter was studied further. Medivie shares ended up 23.2% at 2.15 shekels (62 cents). Shares of Together Pharma, whose CEO Nissim Bracha promised lawmakers that hundreds of jobs would be created if exports are approved, rose as much as 8.8% before settling back to a close of 17.77, a 1% gain. (Guy Erez)

Shares end mixed as bank stage powerful rally

Tel Aviv shares ended mixed on Monday as the benchmark TA-35 slid in the final minutes of trading. The index squeezed out a gain of 0.05% to end at 1,508.75 points, while the TA-125 ended unchanged at 1,368.95, on turnover of 1.43 billion shekels ($410 million). Bank shares staged a powerful rally, with Leumi ending up 3.8% higher at 21.43 shekels and First International Bank up 2.7% at 75.28. Newly listed Fattal Hotels extended gains in its second day of trading, climbing 3.2% to 339.50. Tamar Petroleum rose 0.2% to 20.40 after the shareholder advisory firm Entropy backed its plan to buy a 7.5% stake in the Tamar gas field from Noble Energy. Israel Chemicals rose 0.1% to 15.45 after it confirmed media reports late on Sunday that its board had appointed Raviv Zoller, an insurance executive, as CEO. Housing & Construction Limited, sank 5.6% to 6.68, bringing its decline since police opened a bribery probe to 17%. (Guy Erez)