Business in Brief

Three groups tussle for control of Paz Oil, Woodside reportedly walking away from Leviathan deal, and Tel Aviv shares down on Ukraine concerns.

Nir Kafri

Three groups eyeing control of Paz Oil

Tzadik Bino and his Australian partners are holding talks with at least three different investor groups to sell their 36% controlling stake in Paz Oil – Israel’s largest and most profitable energy company – for some 2 billion shekels ($580 million). The potential buyers reportedly include one group led by Mordechai Ben-Shach, a former Paz CEO who owns 4% of the company. He already counts investment banker Dan Tahori in the group and is trying to recruit Mori Arkin, the pharmaceuticals magnate. A second group is comprised of U.S. investors, while Arie Kotler, who controls Arco Holdings, is trying to organize a third group. Bino, who last week sold a 4.75% stake in Paz for about 260 million shekels, must sell either Paz or First International Bank of Israel to meet the terms of the new Business Concentration Law. Shares of Paz closed 0.4% down at 536.40 shekels in Tel Aviv.

Woodside weighing pulling out of Leviathan deal

Woodside Petroleum, the Australian energy company seeking to buy a 25% stake in Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field, is considering pulling out of the deal as it contends with the government on tax and other issues, Australia’s Brisbane Times reported Sunday, citing unidentified sources. They said the company might return the capital it planned to invest in the field back to shareholders, but alternatively it could be seeking other acquisitions, including the company Oil Search Limited, which is active in Papua New Guinea and is already producing oil and gas that could be delivered to Asian customers. Woodside hasn’t approached Oil Search, the report said. The talks with Leviathan’s current partners – Noble Energy, Delek Group and Ratio – have been under a cloud since, at the last minute, Woodside pulled out of a signing ceremony to close the deals. Delek Group ended down 2.5% at 1,382 shekels ($400) and Ratio fell 1.2% to 5.07 shekels in Tel Aviv.

Israel Electric raises 935 million shekels in debt

Israel Electric Corporation raised 935 million shekels ($271 million) in bonds late on Thursday, in a private placement to institutional investors. The debt replaces money that the state-owned utility raised two years ago with government guarantees. The bonds, which are for 9.3 years and rated Aa3 with a Stable outlook, will pay interest linked to inflation of 3.8%. Meanwhile, the Haifa Labor Court Sunday declined to rule on a decision it made a month ago saying the start of operations at the Dorad private power plant in Ashkelon violated “the status of IEC.” The plant, which would provide electricity in competition with IEC, was supposed to begin operations last Tuesday, but concerns about contempt-of-court violations have left its opening in limbo.

Tel Aviv shares weighed down by Ukraine anxiety

Tel Aviv shares closed lower Sunday amid continuing concerns about the Ukraine crisis. The benchmark TA-25 index bottomed out in early afternoon but recovered only part of its morning losses to end 0.4% down at 1,374.48 points. Sunday marked its sixth decline in eight sessions before heading into the two-day Memorial/Independence Day holiday. The TA-100 fell 0.5% to close at 1,246.08. Turnover was just 488 million shekels ($141.2 million). Among the biggest losers in the TA-100, PhotoMedex fell 3.9% to close at 50.37 shekels, while mall managers Azrieli Group and Melisron declined 3.1% and 2.4%, to 112.30 shekels and 90.07 shekels, respectively. Elbit Systems rose 1.5% to 207 shekels a week before it is due to release first-quarter results. Nice Systems gained 0.9% to 150.40 shekels. The company’s new voice-identification technology was noted in a CNBC report on Thursday. Mivtach Shamir was also a gainer, adding 1.7% to 117.20 shekels on bets that the sale of Tnuva, in which it is a minority shareholder, is moving forward.