Daily Roundup / Stanley Fischer's Exit Is Risky Business

Haredim up in arms against hospital, while cell phone companies agree to supply cheap earbud headphones.

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Fischer leaving puts Israel's risk premium at risk: Israeli investors didn't much react to the startling news that Stanley Fischer is quitting as Bank of Israel governor, two years ahead of time, but the reaction abroad may yet be to come. Tel Aviv shares fell only 0.8% on Tuesday. "Fischer's resignation increases Israel's risk premium," says Elah Alkalay, business development manager at IBI Investment House. Fischer's departure is all the more awkward at this time because Israel has no clear economic leadership aside from him, she explained. Officials at the Finance Ministry are squabbling, coalition negotiations are still taking place and will be for some time; "and there isn't even a leading candidate for finance minister," Alkalay added. Ron Eichel, chief economist at Meitav, foresees the absence of a clear heir for Fischer exacerbating volatility and possibly weakening the shekel. He agrees that Israel's risk premium could take a hit, which would jack up Israel's borrowing costs.

Haredim threaten hospital boycott: Ultra-Orthodox groups are threatening to boycott the Sheba medical center after its chief called for the establishment of a "patriotic Zionist coalition" government – from which Haredim would be excluded. The United Torah Judaism party and its member, Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, were furious at the article penned in popular daily Yedioth Ahronoth by Sheba director Zeev Rothstein, in which he expressed hope that the PM would overcome "rusty thinking" and fear about his "natural partners" in government and heed the voter.

Pelephone, Partner agree to supply cheap earbuds: Some mobile phone users will be able to buy cheap earbuds for their devices, following the settlement of a class-action suit against Pelephone and Partner Communications. The companies had been sued for failing to adequately warn users about the risk of holding their phones to their heads. The settlement with Pelephone – and a similar one with Partner – requires the company to provide earphones for all models at NIS 10 apiece for the next nine months. The offer will be included in customers’ monthly bills. The company also agreed to do free checks to ensure that the radiation levels of devices it repairs are safe. It will now issue clear warnings regarding radiation risks.

Shikun & Binui might not want to hold water: Shikun & Binui (Housing & Construction) may not buy the other half of a water reservoir project in Manara from Ortam Sahar, antitrust commissioner David Gilo ruled on Wednesday. The Electra group owns the other half. Gilo's beef is that if he'd let the transaction proceed, the two companies would co-own two of the three water reservoir projects in Israel.

Teva starts selling Propofol once again: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is resuming the sales of Propofol after the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration asked drug companies to help overcome a shortage of the injectable anesthetic. Teva won't be making the stuff, just marketing it for Corden Pharma. Production of Propofol fell below demand after several manufacturing sites were shut down due to quality problems. Teva had stopped making Propofol two years ago, claiming it is complicated to make and unprofitable. The Israeli company also had to pay $255 million compensation to patients who were infected with Hepatitis C after Propofol was administered to them using non-disposable needles. Teva argued that its manufacturing hadn't been at fault, to no avail.

Saban formally takes control of Partner: Control of Partner Communications was formally transferred on Tuesday to Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media magnate who acquired 33% of the cell phone operator’s stock. Ilan Ben Dov, who sold him the shares, will retain a 15% stake through his holding companies Scailex and Suny.

With reporting by Eran Azran, Moti Bassok, Yoram Gabison, Amitai Ziv, Shelly Appelberg

Risky business: Fischer's departure as central banker could hurt Israel's risk premium.Credit: AP
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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