Market Briefs / Delek Confirms Phoenix Sale to Kushner Is Off

Moody’s: Early election is ‘credit negative’ for Israel; Opko shares rally on deal with Pfizer.

Emil Salman

Moody’s: Early elections ‘credit negative’ for Israel

The collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and early elections are a “negative” for Israel’s credit rating, Moody’s Investors Services said in a report Monday. For full story, click here

Delek confirms Phoenix sale to Kushner is off

Yitzhak Tshuva’s Delek Group confirmed Monday that it had failed to reach an agreement to sell its controlling stake in insurer Phoenix Holdings to Kushner Funding. “The company is evaluating and moving forward on other options for the sale of its shares in Phoenix,” Delek said in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, saying the parties could not reach an understanding for entering into a binding agreement. The announcement comes five months after the holding group signed a memorandum of understanding to sell a 47% stake in Phoenix to New York-based Kushner, which is controlled by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, for nearly 1.7 billion shekels ($434 million). Shares of Delek ended down 1.1% at 1.135 shekels. (TheMarker)

Opko shares rally on deal with Pfizer
Opko Health shares soared Monday after the U.S.-Israeli company said it had formed a partnership with Pfizer to develop and commercialize a treatment developed by Opko for growth-hormone deficiency. Opko said it would receive an up-front payment of $295 million and could get up to another $275 million if its hGH-CTP treatment meets certain regulatory approvals. Pfizer will commercialize the treatment, which complements its existing Genotropin growth-hormone franchise. HGH-CTP, which is in Phase II trials for children and Phase III trials for adults, could replace daily injections with weekly ones. “We believe that the global growth hormone market is currently valued at more than $3 billion,” said Opko CEO Phillip Frost. Shares of Opko, which acquired the treatment when it acquired Israel’s Prolor Biotech in April last year, closed up 9% at 34.78 shekels in Tel Aviv. (Yoram Gabison)

Ceragon to fire 300 in bid to restore profitability
Ceragon Networks, the maker of equipment for operating mobile networks, will be firing close to 30% of its 1,100 employees, TheMarker has learned. The 300 layoffs are part of a program the company announced Monday to take “immediate action” aimed at reducing operating expenses by 17% next year and returning to profitability in the second quarter of 2015. “This expense level will be achieved primarily through an immediate headcount reduction of approximately 14%,” CEO Ira Palti said. “We are determined to return Ceragon to profitability as quickly as possible and to preserve our financial flexibility.” Ceragon, which lost $3.6 million in the third quarter, said it expected to take a record charge of up to $12 million for the cutbacks. Separately, the company said it would record a $19 million charge against Venezuelan assets due because the government is limiting customers’ ability to pay bills in U.S. dollars. Ceragon shares closed up 0.5% at 4.39 shekels. (Dror Reich)

Stocks end higher as bonds plunge
Inspired by higher starts for the week in the United States and Europe, Tel Aviv shares eked out gains Monday, but bond prices were down sharply. The benchmark TA-25 index ended up 0.1% at 1,478.39, while the TA-100 added 0.15% to end at 1,311.93, as 1.68 billion shekels ($430 million) in shares changed hands. Among top gainers, Perrigo and Nice System both advanced 1.1% to end at 603.40 and 197.10 shekels, respectively. But Jerusalem Economic tumbled to 19.37, a drop of 6.9% amid concern about controlling shareholder Eliezer Fishman’s Russian assets. Bezeq dropped 2.1% to close at 6.93. In the bond market, the Tel-Bond 20, 40 and 60 indices lost as much as 0.5% while longest-dated government bonds declined close to 2%. (Dror Reich)