Business in Brief: Mega Supermarkets Likely to Be Sold by Receivers as Bloc

Sony confirms it is buying Israeli semiconductor startup Altair; New class of provident fund launched; Tel Aviv shares end mixed.

A customer shopping at a branch of Mega in Tel Aviv, January 17, 2016.
Ofer Vaknin

Mega supermarkets likely to be sold by receivers as bloc

Mega’s court-appointed receivers have indicated in meeting with buyers this week that they prefer to sell its 126 supermarkets as a whole rather than sell individual stores to different buyers, TheMarker has learned.

The receivers prefer a single buyer because it would simplify the sales process and enable them to finish it more quickly. Likewise, labor unions prefer a single buyer because they stand a better chance of retaining pay and conditions for Mega employees.

But industry sources said parceling out Mega stores between different buyers would ensure more competition and lower prices for shoppers. Sources said the supermarkets are likely to sell for between 200 million and 300 million shekels ($50.4 million-$75.5 million), but the buyer will likely have to invest another 150 million in renovating them.

Receivers, which expect to begin allowing bidders to see Mega’s financials next week, said Tuesday they expected the chain to show an operating loss of about 15 million shekels for the month since they took over operations. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

Sony confirms it is buying Israeli semiconductor startup Altair

Sony Corporation confirmed on Tuesday media reports that it had agreed to buy Altair Semiconductor, an Israeli maker of fourth-generation mobile chips, for $212 million. The acquisition, the first major one in Israel for the Japanese electronics giant, comes as it steps up its investment in chip technology.

Altair, which has developed technology to allow small devices like security alarms and electricity meters to connect to mobile networks, will become a Sony research and development center after Sony’s acquisition is completed in early February.

Altair’s investors, which include Israel’s Jerusalem Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners of the United States, are getting only a modest return on their investment: Since 2005, when Altair was founded, they have put $135 million into the company. Altair had 2014 sales of $45 million. (Inbal Orpaz)

New class of provident fund launched

A new category of provident fund (kupat gemel) with attractive terms was launched Tuesday as the government tries to encourage Israelis to save more. “It’s a lot more attractive investment than what the banks offer today, which is really nothing,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said, giving the plan some inadvertently faint praise.

But the financial markets also lauded the new fund. “It creates a provident fund that can compete with long-term savings,” said Yair Lowenstein, CEO of Altschuler Shaham Provident Funds. “We have 250,000 members and now we can offer them a long-term instrument in which you can make deposit money into it when you want.”

The new category of provident will be exempt from the capital gains tax so long as the holder doesn’t withdraw money before retirement age – and even then withdrawals won’t be subject to penalties. Pension payments from it will also be tax free. (Assa Sasson)

Tel Aviv shares end mixed

Tel Aviv shares ended mixed Tuesday, in continued thin trading as global stock markets and oil prices rose. The benchmark TA-25 index squeezed out a gain of 0.2% to end at 1,455.80 points while the TA-100 edged down 0.06% to 1,251.20, as just over 1 billion shekels ($250 million) in shares changed hands.

Bezeq led blue chips higher on a rise 0f 2.8% to end at 8.43 shekels while Frutarom advanced 3.8% in heavy trading to 191 shekels. Spacecom led TA-100 stocks higher, adding 4.8% to 31 shekels after four sessions of sharp declines.

Among losers, Israel Chemicals ended down 1.5% at 15.29 on reports that China is expected to delay signing potash deals with miners to as late as April as prices slump to near decade lows. Its parent company, The Israel Corporation, dropped 2.5% to 633.60. Opko Health lost 4.1% to close at 31.05. The bond market was quiet, with the government’s 10-year Shahar bond down 0.05%. (Omri Zerachovitz)