Business in Brief

IDB Development is baaaack! Shufershal net profit plunges, and tech stocks have a good day on TASE.

Daniel Bar-On

IDB Development returns to stock exchange

IDB Development Corp., slated to become the core company in the sprawling IDB conglomerate, returned to Tel Aviv Stock Exchange trading on Monday after a five-year absence. The company had been delisted when it was controlled by Nochi Dankner in a tender offer worth 2.2 billion shekels ($640 million at the current exchange rate) by its parent, IDB Holding Corp. IDB Development ended a day of relatively lively trading – some 42 million shekels in shares changed hands – at a 1.04 billion-shekel market capitalization and a share price of 5.18 shekels. IDB Development has slimmed down over the intervening years with the sale of its holdings in Clal Industries, Adama and Given Imaging, among others. IDB’s new controlling shareholders, Moti Ben-Moshe and Eduardo Elsztain, formally took control of the group last Wednesday and have yet to detail a strategy for reviving the debt-ridden group.

Shufarsal net plunges on low food spending

Shufersal, Israel’s biggest supermarket chain, said Monday that its first-quarter net profit plunged 42% to 32 million shekels ($9.3 million) due to intensifying competition and a drop in food spending by consumers. Revenue fell 6% to 2.81 billion shekels. Same store sales fell 6.5% in the quarter from a year ago, which it attributed partly to the timing of the Passover holiday, which occurred in the first quarter in 2013 but the second quarter in 2014. The company said that since the start of 2014 there has been a drop in food spending, which it attributed to slower economic growth. But CEO Itzhak Aberkohen said the chain had since seen a moderate recovery and improved sales. Shufersal (formerly known as Super-Sol) shares ended unchanged at 13.06 shekels.

Babylon continues to reel from Google loss

Babylon, the once high-flying online translation company, continued its shrinking act in the first quarter. Stung by the loss of a key contract with Google, the company reported Monday that net profit dropped 74% in the first quarter from a year ago, to 46.7 million shekels ($13.5 million). Cash flow remained positive, but shrunk 49% in the year to 26.4 million shekels, while spending on marketing and sales – a barometer for future growth – declined 90% to 10.2 million shekels, signaling that the company’s downsizing will continue in coming quarters. Nevertheless, Babylon shares, which have plummeted 37% since the start of the year, closed 0.8% up at 5.10 shekels.

EarlySense mulls 2015 initial public offering

EarlySense, a maker of wireless hospital bed monitors, is weighing an initial public offering in 2015, CEO Avner Halperin told Reuters. “The company has raised $46 million to date and will evaluate a potential IPO in 2015,” Halperin said. EarlySense says it is the market leader for the technology, the only one cleared for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which, from under a mattress, unobtrusively detects a patient’s heart and respiratory rate and movement. Israel-based EarlySense declined to give sales data but said it has already delivered over a thousand units for use in about two dozen hospitals across the United States and expects to install “tens of thousands more in the next three years.”

TA-25 ends higher, paced by tech stocks

Tel Aviv shares ended higher Monday, lifted higher by markets in Asia and technology stocks at home. The benchmark TA-25 index closed 0.2% up at 1,375.13 points, while the TA-100 added 0.5% to 1,242.60, all on turnover of just over 1 billion shekels ($294 million). Technology stocks were led higher by Allot Communications’ 9.4% jump to 46.15 shekels. Kamada climbed 6.2% by close to 48.55 shekels and TowerJazz gained 2.9% to 29.38. Sapiens finished ahead 2.9% at 27.50 shekels after first-quarter net profit met analysts’ forecasts of 7 cents a share and predicted that full-year sales might exceed estimates of $157.3 million. Bezeq sunk 1.8% to 6.28 shekels after rival HOT Telecom and other rivals said they would offer faster Internet service at lower prices.