Business in Brief

Eilat Port turned over to Nakash brothers

The agreement transferring Eilat Port to Rafi and Avi Nakash, whose Papo Maritime Ltd. won a tender privatizing its operations, was signed at a ceremony at the treasury yesterday. Papo paid the state NIS 105 million for the right to operate and manage the port for the next 15 years. Expected returns over this term are estimated at NIS 120 million, based on revenues from port operations. In return for exercising its option to continue operations for another 10 years, Papo will pay another NIS 105 million. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he also hoped to privatize the larger ports of Ashdod and Haifa. "The new deal will expand the port's capacity by enabling it to handle containers, which will greatly enhance ties with China, India and other Asian countries," he said. (Daniel Schmil )

Treasury to give Israel Railways bridge loan

Israel Railways will receive NIS 25 million a month from the government over the next three months, as a bridge loan to help pay suppliers and continue operations, the treasury said yesterday. The state-owned and subsidized railways, which needs the loan to tide it over until the Knesset approves the 2013 budget, ran up a NIS 200 million deficit by the middle of last year and turned to the state for an emergency cash injection. By the end of March a new subsidy agreement is due to be signed, at which point the company may have to refund some of the cash it received. Israel Railways is refraining from ratifying its new budget, although a draft was presented to the board of directors last week. The railways plans on issuing bonds in June to finance development and for ongoing operations. The target is to raise NIS 2 billion, most of which will go to electrification of the railways. (Daniel Schmil )

GE shuttering Israel development center As part of its global cost savings measures

General Electric said yesterday it will shut down its health care development center in Herzliya, laying off 25 employees. The move comes after it dismissed 25 employees in Kadima last month. Ten others were fired in December in Tirat Hacarmel. The 25 jobs amount to 5% of its Israel workforce, a figure that may reach 10% of the local workforce by the end of 2013. Nevertheless, GE said it will continue investing in Israel, where it has had operations since 1997. In addition to its medical imaging operations, GE has holdings in Insightec, a company controlled by Motti Zisser that produces technology for removing tumors by ultrasound combined with MRI. Last year, GE invested $27.5 million in Insightec and has bought several local start-ups. In 2011, GE set up a division in Israel focused on medical, energy and water research. (Inbal Orpaz )

Better car safety reduces insurance premiums

The Finance Ministry released figures yesterday showing that improving car safety saves not only lives but money as well. Over the last 12 years, there has been a substantial drop in injuries caused by car accidents relative to the number of cars on Israel's roads. The chances of being involved in an accident dropped by 28%, to 3.47% in 2011, down from 5% in 2002, as car safety features improved, along with roads and law enforcement. As a result, compulsory auto insurance premiums dropped 39% between 2000 and 2011, saving drivers NIS 12 billion. Another NIS 2 billion in savings were achieved in 2011 alone, after the field was opened to competition. The average costs of compulsory insurance fell to NIS 1,618 in 2011, from NIS 2,648 in 2000. (Daniel Schmil )

Mori Chen.