Business in Brief: Delek Group, Tech Stocks Lead Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Higher

Battle emerges for control of tiny Xenia; Nir Gilad to step down as Israel Chemicals chairman; Stock exchange toughens rules on shell companies.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Moti Milrod

Battle emerges for control of tiny Xenia

Xenia Venture Capital, a tiny tech investor, has suddenly become the focus of a struggle for control and seen its sleepy stock surge 40% higher since the start of the month. Capital Point, an Israeli investment company controlled by Prof. Yehuda Kanana, offered to buy 19.4% of Xenia last week only to run up against a counter bid by the British-Jewish billionaire Vincent Tchebguiz through a vehicle called Centaurus Investments. Centaurus bought three million Xenia shares on Thursday at 1.05 shekels (27 cents) each, a 4% premium over Capital Point’s offer, accumulating a 16.6% stake. Tchebguiz, who was born in Tehran and has a net worth together with his brother Robert estimated at 850 million pounds, is mainly involved in real estate but also has clean tech and biotech investments. That would explain their interest in Xenia, which has invested considerably in biotech and medical device companies since 2004. Xenia shares rose closed up 14.4% to 1.18 shekels. (Yoram Gabison)

Nir Gilad to step down as Israel Chemicals chairman

Israel Chemicals said Sunday its chairman Nir Gilad, 59, would be retiring in the next few months after a new chairman is appointed. Sources said Gilad, which has been chairman of ICL since January 2008, was leaving because, among other reasons, he had become the flashpoint of controversy with Finance Ministry officials over the 2013 Sheshinski committee recommendations to impose a windfall profits tax on natural resources profits, mainly ICL’s. He had also become a symbol of the revolving door between government and big business. As treasury accountant general in 1999-2003 he helped oversee the privatization of Oil Refineries Limited and Zim Navigation to The Israel Corporation before taking over as CEO of Israel Corporation in 2007, a job he held until the start of 2015 when the holding company’s non-Israeli assets were spun off into Kenon Holdings. Exact details about when he will step down will be released later, ICL said. ICL shares finished up 2.6% to 17.35 shekels ($4.44). (Yoram Gabison)

Stock exchange toughens rules on shell companies

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange said Sunday it was taking steps jointly with the Israel Securities Authority to clamp down on the phenomenon of shell companies. Shells are companies that have failed but continue to trade on the TASE. They are often merged companies that are seeking an easy way to go public, but the TASE said research showed that since 2006 only five out of 90 shells proved to be a success after a merger. Under the new rules, the TASE won’t be so lax about letting shells continue trading. Those that meet more stringent rules defining shells as companies 80% of whose assets are cash and have no business activities will be immediately moved from the TASE’s main list to its maintenance list. However, the bourse said it would make it easier for maintenance list companies that have fallen on hard times and are trying to turn themselves around by giving them 48 months instead of 24 before they are delisted. (Shelly Appelberg)

Delek Group, tech stocks lead TASE higher

Tel Aviv shares ended higher Sunday in quiet trading, lifted by Delek Group and technology stocks. The benchmark TA-25 index ended 0.6% higher at 1,458.86 points, while the TA-100 added 0.7% to 1,257.30, as just 430 million shekels ($110 million) in shares changed hands. Delek Group rose 3.6% to close at 648.40 shekels and Ituran led gains for tech companies on a 2.5% advance to 68.12. Among big losers, Rami Levy finished 3.5% lower at 15.61 shekels amid concern about a police investigation of accusations the company abused the privacy of its cellphone subscribers. SodaStream lost 3% to end at 58.41 and El Al Airlines dropped 2.4% to 2.83 shekels despite a cooling labor dispute with pilots. Africa Israel jumped 14.5% to 2.12 after it said it had appointed Yaki Vadmani, former CEO of Electra Consumer Products, head of its troubled Africa Industries unit.  (Shelly Appelberg)