Business in Brief

Bank of Israel buys more dollars, Tel Aviv shares rise.

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Bank of Israel buys dollars for second day running

The Bank of Israel intervened in the foreign-currency market yesterday for a second day, spending between $200 million and $250 million buying dollars in the morning and briefly pushing the dollar to 3.50 shekels. The official Bank of Israel rate was set later at 3.4940 shekels, marking a 0.14% gain for the greenback for the day. The euro edged down 0.09% to 4,7661. On Monday, the central bank spent between $250 million and $300 million to prevent the dollar from sinking against the shekel. Bank officials say the shekel’s appreciation over the last six weeks has been more due to speculation than fundamentals. The bank has not disclosed an official target, but it appears to be around 3.50. (Moti Bassok)

Check Point beats forecasts for fourth-quarter earnings

Network security provider Check Point Software reported a quarterly profit yesterday that topped expectations on sales of new data-center appliances and threat-prevention software blades. Check Point earned 98 cents a share excluding one-time items, up from 91 cents a year earlier as revenue grew 5% to $387.1 million. Check Point was forecast to have earned 95 cents a share on revenue of $383.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. “The fourth quarter represented one of the best quarters that I can remember, which is reflected in our customer wins and deferred revenues. The Americas and Europe delivered great results,” CEO Gil Shwed said. The company said it would buy up to another $1 billion worth of outstanding shares. (Reuters)

Israel Corporation is top institutional holding in TA-25 index

The Israel Corporation was the stock in the TA-25 index most widely held by institutional investors in the fourth quarter, according to economic consulting firm Praedicta. Idan Ofer’s holding company accounted for 4% of their holdings in TA-25 firms, nearly twice its 2.2% weighing in the index. Azrieli Group, the mall developer, accounted for 3.5% of their holdings, compared with a 2% index weighting, while First International Bank of Israel accounted for 1.4% versus a 0.9% weighting. Rounding out the top five were Migdal Insurance (2.1% versus 1.3%) and Paz Oil (2.73% versus 1.67%). The figures reflect institutions’ preference for bank, holding-company and property shares over industrial and telecom companies, Praedicta said. (Dror Riech)

Big in two big U.S. shopping mall acquisitions

Big Shopping Centers, the mall operator controlled by Roni and Yehuda Naftali, said yesterday it’s on its way to two big property transactions in the United States. The company has already signed up to buy 90% of two shopping centers, each anchored by a Publix supermarket, in the Atlanta area for about $23 million. Big is also in talks to buy a 50% stake in a shopping center in an unnamed western state for $78 million, with a deal forecast to be closed in the second quarter. Shares of Big closed 1.3% higher in Tel Aviv at 136.60 sheklels ($39.14). (Eran Azran)

Tel Aviv shares gain while bonds extend decline

Tel Aviv stocks rose for a second day as global markets recovered from their emerging-market swoon. The benchmark TA-25 index and the broader TA-100 both finished up 0.4% at 1,314.47 and 1,209.45 points, respectively, on turnover of 1.27 billion shekels ($341 million). Fashion retailer Fox was the volume leader with nearly 100 million shekels in shares changing hands on a 2.3% drop to 96.89 shekels. Entrepreneur Lev Leviev has sold a 6.9% block of shares to institutional investors at 96.50 shekels each. Teva rose 2.5% to 159.70 after Citigroup raised its New York Stock Exchange target price to $50 from $47. In fixed-income markets, bonds fell for a second day, with the government’s 10-year shekel bond down 0.14%, raising the yield to 3.53% while its inflation-linked bond for the same term dropped 0.3% to lift the yield to 1.43%. (Eran Azran) 

Bank of Israel headquarters in Jerusalem. The central bank is due to decide on July 28 whether to lower its base lending rate from 0.75%.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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