Business in Brief: Noble Energy Plans to Cut Capital Spending by Half for This Year

CyberArk CEO says company to remain independent; Failed Markstone fund divests last of its assets; Tel Aviv shares weighed down by energy, banking sectors.

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An investor sits in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house.
An investor sits in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house.Credit: Reuters

Noble Energy plans to cut capital spending by half for this year

Noble Energy, the operating partner in Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas fields, said Wednesday it would cut spending and dividend to save cash as the price of oil has slumped about 70% since mid-2014.

The Houston-based producer, which is expected to spend some $2.5 billion developing Leviathan for production, said it would halve its capital spending program for 2016 to $1.5 billion. Its quarterly cash dividend will be reduced by 8 cents to 10 cents per common share.

“The decision to adjust the quarterly dividend, along with a substantially reduced and flexible capital program for 2016, is part of a comprehensive effort to spend within cash flow and manage the Company’s balance sheet,” Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Fisher said. “We also intend to reduce leverage in this environment.”

Noble shares were up 1% at $29.05 late morning local time in New York. (TheMarker)

CyberArk CEO says company to remain independent

CyberArk is focused on building its business independently, the CEO of the cyber security company told Reuters Wednesday, two weeks after TheMarker reported the company was in talks to be acquired by Check Point Software Technologies, Israel’s biggest tech firm.

“We’re no different from any other company. We’re focused on our opportunity,” Udi Mokady told Reuters on the sidelines of Israel’s annual Cybertech conference. “Our goal is to really build it large. Of course we will always do what’s right for our shareholders.”

CyberArk made two acquisitions in the past year, paying $30.5 million for Massachusetts-based Viewfinity and an undisclosed amount for Cybertinel, an Israeli startup that provides cyberthreat detection technology.

TheMarker’s report gave a big lift to CyberArk shares, which had fallen 50% from a high of $76.35 in June 2015. In New York trading Wednesday, they were down 4.1% at $41.26 late morning local time. (Reuters)

Failed Markstone fund divests last of its assets

Markstone Capital, the failed private equity fund, sold off the last of its major assets this week, leaving its backers with losses of about 40% on the $735 million they put into the fund after it was formed in 2004.

Markstone sold the jewelry retailer Magnolia to Ben Yehuda Jewelry, a Jerusalem company that has been one of its biggest suppliers. Ben Yehuda paid just a few million shekels for the chain, which Markstone bought in 2007 for $30 million, but agreed to take on debt of tens of millions of shekels more and to make a further payment if Magnolia’s operating performance improves in the next few years. 

The sale follows Markstone’s divesting its 23% stake in Psagot Investment House to the Apax Partners fund for 450 million shekels ($113 million). The proceeds of that sale will go to repaying banks and bondholders. (Michael Rochvarger)

Tel Aviv shares weighed down by energy, banking sectors

Tel Aviv shares ended lower Wednesday, with energy and banking shares weighing on an otherwise positive market.

The benchmark TA-25 index ended down almost 0.6% to 1,447.85 points, while the TA-100 lost 0.2% to 1,248.66, in moderate turnover of 1.07 billion shekels ($270 million). Energy shares were down amid new tremor in the oil market and bearish news from Noble Energy. Ratio dropped 3.3% to end at 24 agorot, Avner lost 2.6% to 2.03 and Delek Drilling fell 2.4% to 10.39. Banks were led lower by declines of 1.1% in Bank Hapoalim, which ended at 18.12 shekels, and Israel Discount Bank, which finished at 6.27.

Alon Blue Square edged down to 1.65 shekels. Midroog cut its rating on the holding company’s bonds to Caa1 from B3 after it failed to make a payment on bonds due in October.  MannKind soared 38% to a 4.50-shekel close after reports that the biotechnology company was considering putting itself up for sale. (Uri Tomer)