Business in Brief / Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Makes a Profit, but a Meager One

Shares follow Wall Street and Europe down; Alon Blue Square pulls Coke amid spat; Cellcom laying off another 100.

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Stock prices flash on an electronic screen displaying world clocks at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014.Credit: Bloomberg

TASE posts minuscule $2.4 million profit for 2014
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, on its way to becoming a for-profit business, posted a net profit of just 9.4 million shekels ($2.4 million) last year. That was a turnaround from a loss of 45.5 million shekels in 2013 due to costs linked to the company’s move to its new headquarters, but not counting those one-time expenses the TASE would have made a 2013 profit of about 23 million shekels. In 2014 the bourse also had costs linked to the move, as well as 4.2 million shekels in fees to consultants advising on the switchover to for-profit status. Revenues, meanwhile, edged up 2.3% to 244 million shekels as TASE raised trading fees while trading volumes remained stagnant at about 1.2 billion shekels. The Securities Authority is moving forward with a bill that would let the TASE become a for-profit business; the stock exchange has also set its sights on an initial public offering of its shares. (Eran Azran)

Shares take a dip after lower Wall Street, Europe
Israeli stocks dropped sharply on Sunday after U.S. and European shares tumbled over the weekend amid worries about China’s new trading regulations, Greece’s money problems and tepid U.S. corporate earnings. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries plunged 5.1% in heavy trading to end at 249.50 shekels after U.S. authorities on Thursday approved the first generic rival to the firm’s best-selling MS drug Copaxone. The TA-25 benchmark index finished down 1.1% at 1,667.80 points, while the TA-100 lost 1.5% to end at 1,457.31. Trading for a Sunday was a brisk 827.5 million shekels ($210.9 million). Oil Refineries Ltd. finished down 2.8% at 1.37 shekels after Haifa said it would block trucks entering and leaving local chemical plants, including the refineries. The Health Ministry had said these factories were releasing carcinogens into the air. Perrigo dropped 2.9% to 776.20 shekels and Partner Communications 3.9% to 10.96. In the fixed-income market, the government’s shekel bond due to 2024 rose 0.17% to cut its yield to 1.42%. (Eran Azran)

Alon Blue Square supermarkets pull Coke from shelves
Mega, the supermarket chain controlled by Alon Blue Square, pulled Coca-Cola, Neviot bottled water, Tara dairy goods and other products made by the Central Bottling Company and its subsidiaries over the weekend amid a commercial dispute. Mega also reduced orders for Carlsberg beer and Prigat juices. The Calcalist financial daily said Central Bottling was seeking either guarantees for payment from Mega for products delivered or a reduction in the chain’s orders. But the ailing food retailer accused Central Bottling of exploiting its woes to demand faster payment for deliveries. Mega’s sales dropped 6% last year to 5.4 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) while operating profit plunged 60% to just 39.3 million as the company loses market share to upstart discounters like Rami Levy. Alon Blue Square shares closed 4.1% lower to end at 10.84 shekels. (Ruti Levy)

Cellcom laying off another 100 under generous terms
Cellcom Israel, Israel’s biggest cellular operator, plans to lay off another 100 employees at an estimated cost of 20 million shekels ($5.1 million) as it struggles with stiff competition. In an unusually generous severance agreement with labor unions, employees over 58 leaving the company will continue to get their full salaries and pension contributions paid until they reach retirement age of 67, as well as a company car and phone for three months. Younger employees will get severance packages equal to 200% of what they ordinarily would be entitled. Management and the unions will have final say on who accepts offers to buy out their contracts. The company laid off 350 employees last June but since has signed a collective labor agreement and negotiated the current layoffs with unions. Cellcom shares dropped 3.4% to end at 19.51 shekels. (Haim Bior)

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