Business in Brief

Ratio in talks over drilling rights in Sara and Myra fields; Wall Street’s Jim Cramer touts Opko, Perrigo.

Ratio in talks over drilling rights in Sara and Myra fields

Ratio Oil Exploration said on Sunday it was in negotiations to become a partner in the offshore gas fields Myra and Sara. Two test wells drilled at the sites 18 months ago turned up dry, but the partners said they intended to continue exploring for petroleum. A partner in the giant Leviathan gas field, Ratio stands to get substantial cash infusion if the Australian energy company Woodside buys a stake in the field, which would give Ratio capital to help finance exploration at Myra and Sara. Ratio said it was still too early to say whether a deal with the field’s partners would be reached. The partners in the two fields are ILDC Energy, controlled by the Nimrodi family; Modiin Energy, which is controlled by the IDB Development Corporation and Yitzhak Sultan; and two Canadian companies. Ratio closed up 6.3% at 51 agorot (15 cents) on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. (Eran Azran)

Wall Street’s Jim Cramer touts Opko, Perrigo

Jim Cramer had some positive words for two dual-listed American-Israel pharma companies at the end of last week. “I know it’s declined, but I still think it’s a good stock. I wouldn’t back away,” Cramer, the host of the CNBC’s investment show Mad Money, said about the drug maker Opko Health. “I see it as a play on frugality, a favorite theme of mine.” Opko, nevertheless, closed down 1.9% at 23.79 shekels ($6.82) on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Sunday. Cramer suggested investors watch Perrigo, the world’s largest maker of generic over-the-counter drugs, ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings report on Thursday. “It should be noted that historically Perrigo has tended to go down after it reports. If that happens Thursday, I’d view it as an opportunity,” he said. Perrigo gained 0.7% to 543.50 shekels. (TheMarker Staff)

Castro to launch chain featuring Yves Rocher cosmetics

Apparel chain Castro said it had signed an agreement to become the exclusive importer of Yves Rocher cosmetics in Israel and would spend 20 million shekels ($5.7 million) developing a retail chain in the second half of 2014 featuring the French company’s products. Castro said it plans to open dozens of branches that will operate independently of its apparel stores. Castro co-CEO Gabi Rotter described the move as part of a growth strategy based on offering brands not sold by local competitors. Shares of Castro finished up 1.8% at 127.90 shekels. (Nati Tucker)

Major shareholders sold 10 times more stock in 2013 than in 2012

Major shareholders sold more than 6 billion shekels’ ($1.7 billion) worth of stock in 2013, more than 10 times what they sold in 2012, according to a report by the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s research unit on Sunday. The report did not speculate why there was such a sharp increase in stock selling by major shareholders, which under Israeli securities regulations are those controlling 5% or more of a company. Among the possible explanations are the Business Concentration Law, which won Knesset approval in December, cash crunches by controlling shareholders as well as investors locking in gains during last year’s bull market. Among the biggest sellers was insurance magnate Shlomo Eliahu, who sold a large block of Bank Leumi. (Dror Reich)

TA-25 index scratches out a small gain

After spending most of the day in the minus column, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s TA-25 index eked out a gain of 0.05% in the final two hours of trading to end at 1,300.25 points on Sunday. The TA-100 rose 0.2% to finish at 1,201.89 with turnover of just 603.4 million shekels ($172 million). The market was lifted by strong gains for energy shares, with Avner rising 5.9% and Dekel Drilling adding 6.4% on reports that executives at the two companies were headed to Australia, presumably to wind up the deal for Australia’s Woodside to take a stake in the Leviathan gas field. Bank shares were sharply down, with the TA-Banking index finishing 1.3% lower at 1,232.96. All the bank shares closed down more than 1% except for First International Bank of Israel. (Shelly Appelberg)

Lior Zeno