Business in Brief / Histadrut Threatens Wider Strike at Israel Chemicals

888 spurns William Hill bid; Israeli firms lead foreign IPOs in London and the TASE closes higher.

The Dead Sea Works potash fertilizer manufacturing plant belongs to Israel Chemicals.
Bloomberg

Histadrut threatens wider strike at Israel Chemicals

The Histadrut labor federation set a Wednesday deadline to shut Israel Chemicals’ main Dead Sea potash operations if the company refused to revise a plan to cut jobs. “On Wednesday, if the issue is not resolved, sadly, a strike will begin at the Dead Sea Works,” Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn said at a Monday rally with ICL employees. ICL workers have been on strike for two weeks at the company’s Dead Sea Bromine unit over a plan to cut 140, about 16%, of 900 jobs. ICL called on the union to return to negotiations over its proposed efficiency program and avoid the “unnecessary strike.” An extended disruption would almost certainly hurt ICL’s market position for the crop nutrient potash in the key markets of China, India and Europe. In its fourth-quarter report, the company said labor strife at its Dead Sea operations lowered fourth-quarter sales by $60 million. ICL shares ended down 0.5% at 27.36 shekels ($7.05). (TheMarker Staff)

888 turns down buyout offer by William Hill

888 Holdings, the London-traded online-gambling company founded and controlled by Israelis, said Monday that talks on a 720 million pound ($1.1 billion) takeover by Britain’s biggest bookmaker, William Hill, had ended. “Due to a significant difference of opinion on value with a key stakeholder, it has not been possible to reach agreement on the terms of a possible offer” and the board “agreed with William Hill to terminate discussions,” 888 said. One of two trusts set up by the Shaked family, one of 888’s Israeli founders, is believed to have wanted 300 pence a share, according to a report in the U.K, Times last week. Analysts had said 888’s strong in-house technology attracted William Hill, which uses a number of third-party suppliers. Shares in 888, which in 2011 saw a planned takeover by Britain’s Ladbrokes collapse over pricing, fell about 11% at the close to 152 pence. (Reuters)

Israeli companies lead foreign IPOs in London

More companies from Israel went public on the London Stock Exchange last year than those from any other country outside of Britain, figures released from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv on Sunday showed. Nine Israeli companies with a current combined market capitalization of 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) had initial public offerings in London. Two of them - Matomy Media Group and Barack Capital - were on the LSE’s main board and the rest on its Alternative Investment Market for small-cap companies. Not all the companies have operations in Israel, including Teddy Sagi’s real estate company, Camden Market, and Barack; the LSE counts companies owned by Israelis to make the list. Another 33 companies are listed on the LSE, about half on the main board, many of them dating from a previous wave of Israeli IPOs in 2004-2005. Another 10 companies are expected to list in London this year. (Eran Azran)

Economic data send stocks and bonds higher

Stocks and bonds both closed sharply higher on Monday after the government reported a spurt in economic growth for the fourth quarter (see story on this page). The benchmark TA-25 Index finished the day up 0.9% at 1,472.98 points, while the TA-100 added 0.8% to cross the 1,300 mark and end at 1,300.61. Turnover, however, was a thin 937 million shekels ($241 million). Energy stocks paced gains, with Ratio closing up 7.1% at 35 agorot and Isramco ahead 5.1% at 68 agorot. The two big cellphone providers were also sharply higher: Partner Communications added 6.6% to 15.36 shekels and Cellcom Israel 5.5% to end at 23.57. But Africa Israel Investments backed down from a two-day rally that boosted the shares by a total 16%. Africa Israel ended 2.7% lower Monday at 4.2 shekels. IDB Development Corp., spooked by new concerns over its ability meet debt repayments, fell 3.3% to a close of 1.63 shekels. The government’s shekel bond due in March 2024 rose 0.21% to cut its yield to 1.8%. (Omri Zerachovitz)