Business in Brief

ICL to sell water-treatment unit for $320m; TowerJazz refinances bank loans; Delek completes sale of Republic; Baran in talks for $200 million Asian project; Tel Aviv weighed down by weak Europe.

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

ICL to sell water-treatment unit for $320m

Israel Chemicals said Sunday it had agreed to sell its water-treatment business to Japan’s Kurita Water Industries for about 250 million euros ($317 million) as it seeks to focus on its core businesses in agriculture, food and engineered materials. The business being sold, known as APW with operations of Germany as well as at other sites in Europe and China, includes ICL’s chemicals additives business for the paper industry. “[ICL] will sue the proceeds from the sale of APW, as well as the divestment of other non-core assets, to strengthen ICL’s core businesses,” ICL CEO Stefan Borgas said in a statement. Shares of ICL, which it said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of the year subject to the Japanese company’s agreeing to certain minimum number of APW employees being retained. ICL ended dodwn 1.9% to 26.12 shekels ($6.93) in Tel Aviv. (TheMarker Staff)

TowerJazz refinances bank loans

Israeli specialty chip maker TowerJazz refinanced its existing bank debt, replacing loans scheduled to be repaid during the coming two years with a $111 million loan maturing by October 2018. The refinancing substantially reduces the principal payments for 2015 and 2016 to $24 million from $101 million, TowerJazz said yesterday. Interest on the loans is USD Libor plus 3.9 percent a year. “This will enable us to execute more quickly on our strategic plans,” CEO Russell Ellwanger told Reuters. The maker of chips for smartphones, battery chargers and AC/DC adapters has a 51% stake in a new joint venture with Panasonic Corp in Japan, under which Panasonic transferred three factories for the production of semiconductors for cars and other products. TowerJazz rose 1.6% to finish at 34.02 shekels ($9.03). (Reuters)

Delek completes sale of Republic

Yitzhak Tshuva’s holding company Delek Group said yesterday it had completed the sale of its Texas-based insurance company Republic Companies to a group of U.S. investors led by Danny Guttman, a former Delek executive. Delek, which is selling Republic at it divests business to focus on energy, sold a controlling 34% stake in the insurer for $75 million. Under the agreement, the buyers have an option to buy the rest of Republic within three years based on a $220 million valuation for the company plus annual interest of 5.5%. If the Guttman-led group fails to buys at last 50% of Republic, they lose control of it, Delek said. Shares of Delek, which bought Republic for about $300 million in 2006, dropped 0.15% to 1,329 shekels ($352.80). (Michael Rochvarger)

Baran in talks for $200 million Asian project

Baran Group shares rose 7.2% to a close of 23.19 shekels ($6.16) in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange trading after the engineering company said it was in advanced talks with an unnamed Asian governmental body to undertake a major infrastructure development project for more than $200 million. The company noted that signing the agreement hinged on the local government’s approving the project as well as project finance being raised. Baran, which comprises 50 subsidiaries operatizing in 15 countries and employing 1,080 people, had to write off a 50 million-shekel investment in the failed electric vehicle startup Better Place, but it halved its net loss in the first half to 12.7 million shekels from the same time in 2013. (Dror Reich)

Tel Aviv weighed down by weak Europe

A weaker Europe and Wall Street caused the TA-25 to head lower yesterday afternoon, leaving the benchmark index at 1,442.34 points by the end of the day, a decline of 0.2%. The TA-100 was also down about 0.2% at 1,291.09 on turnover of 1.14 billion shekels ($302 million). Financial and telecoms stocks were higher, but most of the sector finished down for the day. IDB Development shot up 6.4% to close at 3. 57 shekels after saying Sunday it planned a rights offering. Perion Network led TA-100 stocks lower, falling 4.3% to 21.72. Other big losers were PhotoMedex, which ended down 4.2% at 16.29 and Clal Biotechnology, which reversed course after rallying Sunday and ended down 3.3% at 4.15 shekels. (Dror Reich) 

Compugen discovers anti-cancer protein

Compugen, the Israeli bioinformatics company, said yesterday it had discovered a protein that could serve as the basis for future cancer drugs. Experiments with CGEN-15027, the sixth of 11 proteins discovered by Compugen with potential efficacy against cancer, showed it inhibited melanoma-specific human CD8 cytotoxic T cells, which are immune cells that recognize and destroy cancer cells. In addition, CGEN-15027 was shown to be expressed on cancer cells derived from patients with lung, breast, and liver cancer. “Six of our eleven computer-predicted novel immune checkpoint candidates have demonstrated initial successful biological validation supporting their involvement in tumor immunology. To our knowledge, this hit rate is unprecedented,” said CEO Anat Cohen-Dayag. (Ami Ginzburg)

Babylon lays off more employees

Babylon, the once high-flying maker of downloadable software, said on Sunday it was continuing to downsize as it tries to recover from lost contracts with Google last year. Babylon said it would lay off 15 employees, leaving it with just 22, and would reduce its search-engine and distribution operations. Coming weeks after it sold its translation-software business, the move leaves Babylon with cash but no operations. “Management is now weighing new undertakings and technologies as part of its strategy for redirecting its core operations and focus for the future development of the company,” Babylon said without being more specific. (Michael Rochvarger)

Cnoga raises $12.5m for blood-test devices

Cnoga Medical, a developer of needle-free blood tests to diagnose diabetes and other ailments, has raised $12.5 million from Chinese investment fund GoCapital, the Globes financial daily reported on Monday. CEO Yosef Segman said the proceeds would be sued to develop its next-generation line of wearable devices and expand its marketing in Europe and Asia, especially China. Cnoga’s TensorTip devices use the patient’s skin color to diagnose high blood pressure and measure blood sugar without puncturing the skin. The latter device has been approved for use in the United States and Europe, while the diabetes product is cleared for use in Europe. (TheMarker Staff)