Business in Brief / Tel Aviv Up 9 Places Among World Finance Centers

Moody's bullish on new Israeli government; Israel Chemicals mulls new plant; Can-Fite shares up after psoriasis drug pact.

Bloomberg

Tel Aviv up 9 places among world financial centers

Tel Aviv moved up nine places in the rankings for world financial centers last year. It is now 27th among 82 cities, according to the GFCI index published on Monday. Nevertheless, the GFCI survey, based on a poll of thousands of capital market professionals around the world, found that Tel Aviv failed to reach the top 10 in any of the main categories, including human capital, business environment and reputation. The government has been promoting Tel Aviv, but mainly as a center for financial technology. Shmuel Ben-Tovim, president of City TLV – a nonprofit promoting the city as a financial center – said its weakness is the absence of overseas financial institutions and foreign banks in the retail sector. “Tel Aviv has the potential to be in the top 20 world financial centers,” said Ben-Tovim. “The new government will have the key role in deciding that.” New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo took the top slots on the list.

Moody’s: New gov’t positive for Israel’s credit rating

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election triumph signals “economic policy cohesion” and will be a positive for Israel’s credit rating, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday, although it took no action to change its rating. “The economy’s recovery from last year’s Gaza conflict should lead to rapid consensus over the budget allocations,” said Moody’s, adding it expected the new government to survive longer than the previous one (which lasted just over two years). Analyst Kristin Lindow said she expected the government’s fiscal rules to contain budget growth, enabling it to preserve its A1 Stable rating. Once formed, the government will need to pass a budget for 2015. Moody’s predicted that the budget deficit this year would likely be less than 2014’s, which was 2.9% of gross domestic product. The assessment marks a reversal from Moody’s more bearish outlook in December, when the collapse of Netanyahu’s coalition raised concerns about policy uncertainty.

Israel Chemicals mulls new potassium nitrate plant

Israel Chemicals said on Monday it was examining options to build a potassium nitrate production plant in Israel or abroad, as it expands its special fertilizers and foods business. The new plant – whose size and cost ICL did not detail, except to say it would be large enough to meet ICL’s internal needs and supply international markets – would be constructed close to a site where it currently produces potash, which include Britain, Spain and Israel (where it also mines phosphate rock). “We view the development of this additional manufacturing capability as vital for strengthening our product portfolios in the areas of soluble specialty fertilizers, to support agrochemical needs, and solidifying our role as a global leader in integrated solutions for food texture and stability,” the Israel Chemicals statement said. In related news, Barclays downgraded ICL shares to Equal Weight and lowered its target price for the company’s New York-traded shares to $7, from $9. ICL shares closed 0.7% higher at 28.71 shekels ($7.24) in Tel Aviv.

Can-Fite shares rise on pact for psoriasis drug

Shares of Can-Fite BioPharma rose sharply in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange trading on Monday after the company said Cipher Pharmaceuticals agreed to distribute its CF101 treatment for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis in Canada. CF101 still requires regulatory approvals, but in the meantime Cipher will make an up front payment of 1.65 million Canadian dollars ($1.32 million) and another C$2 million when Can-Fite meets certain milestones. The company said it would also get royalties equal to 16.5% of net sales. “As an orally bioavailable drug, we believe CF101 has the potential to offer a much-needed treatment alternative to patients living with psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis,” said Cipher CEO Shawn O’Brien. The psoriasis market is dominated by biological drugs that are administered intravenously and have potential side effects. Can-Fite shares closed up 4.2% at 10.99 shekels ($2.77).