New $50 Million Social-investing Fund Gets Discount Bank as Anchor Investor

Elsztain offers to swap Cellcom for Eurocom ■ Gov’t warns Spacecom it won’t use Amos 8 ■ Pluristem soars after U.S. approves its PLX-R18 for use in nuclear emergencies ■ News of Netanyahu speech gives Tel Aviv shares a brief jolt

FILE PHOTO: Discount Bank in Tel Aviv.
Ofer Vaknin

New $50 million social-investing fund gets Discount Bank as anchor investor

Israel Discount Bank is the anchor investor in a new $50 million fund investing in companies located in Israel’s economically-lagging periphery and in tech companies that address social and environmental issues, fund manager Bridges Israel said on Monday. Other investors include Psagot, Israel’s biggest investment house, and private investors from Israel, Britain, the United States and Australia, it said. “The State of Israel has enjoyed three decades of extraordinary growth. But at the same time, Israel suffers from great financial and social gaps, especially between the geographic center of the country and its periphery,” it explained. It cited a poll conducted for it by the Geocartography institute showing some 60% of Israelis want their savings or pension fund to consider the social impact of investment choices. Bridges Israel is affiliated Bridges Fund Management, a global sustainable and impact investor founded in 2002 by, among others, Sir Ronald Cohen, and has raised more than $1 billion. (Assa Sasson)

Elsztain offers to swap Cellcom for Eurocom

Eduardo Elsztain, the Argentinian billionaire who controls the IDB group, is making a renewed effort at buying control of Bezeq. Discount Investment Corporation, Elsztain’s flagship company, is reportedly in talks with the bank creditors of Eurocom Group to swap shares in Eurocom’s key holdings for Discount’s stake in Cellcom Israel, the country’s biggest mobile provider. Under the terms of the deal, Eurocom’s creditors would get 43% of Cellcom, worth 1.1 billion shekels ($310 million) based on its current market capitalization in exchange for Eurocom’s 55% stake in Internet Gold, which in turn controls Bezeq, Israel’s biggest telecoms company. Discount would also get Eurocom’s 55% stake in Spacecom, 15% of Enlight Energy and 37.5% of the Midtown Tel Aviv real estate development. However, Eurocom’s creditors are still holding out for a cash offer. The offer comes three months after Elsztain withdrew a 1.1 billion shekel cash bid for Eurocom Communications after creditors demanded a 200 million shekel nonrefundable deposit. (Michael Rochvarger)

Gov’t warns Spacecom it won’t use Amos 8

Spacecom is at risk of losing the Israeli government as a customer for its planned Amos 8 satellite. The company said on Monday that an unnamed government official had informed it in a letter that the state, which has accounted for 30% of Spacecom’s revenues in recent years, preferred using a satellite manufactured and operated in Israel by Israel Aerospace Industries rather than relying on the Amos 8. The letter comes after IAI threatened to enter the satellite-operating business after Spacecom awarded a $112 million contract to build Amos 8 to Space Systems/Loral a month ago, citing the better terms the U.S. company was offering.  It was the first time IAI didn’t win a Spacecom order. The government warning jeopardizes the entire Amos 8 project and will likely force Spacecom into new negotiations with state-owned IAI about awarding it the contract instead. Shares of Spacecom ,which is controlled by Shaul Elovitch, finished down 3.7% at 13.69 shekels ($3.80). (Guy Erez)

Pluristem soars after U.S. approves its PLX-R18 for use in nuclear emergencies

Shares of Pluristem Therapeutics soared on Monday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared its therapy for emergency use to treat acute radiation exposure in a nuclear event. Full approval of the drug will depend on the results of a Phase III clinical trial, and Pluristem said on Monday that it is in discussions with the FDA and several U.S. agencies to clear the path for such a large final-stage study. In the meantime, Pluristem said it would start preparations to keep an emergency stock of PLX-R18. The therapy is injected into the muscle twice, a week apart, to treat bone marrow that is unable to produce enough blood cells due to a variety of causes, including acute radiation exposure and certain cancers or cancer treatments.  “We are increasing the survival rate following high-level radiation exposure,” Arik Eisenkraft, the company’s director of homeland defense projects, told Reuters. Pluristem shares ended up 9.7% at 4.91 shekels ($1.36). (Reuters)

News of Netanyahu speech gives Tel Aviv shares a brief jolt

Investors got a scare late afternoon on Monday, sending the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s TA-35 index down as much as 0.9% on news Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be addressing the nation later in the day. “There was a mini-panic in the derivatives market,” said Ziv Panini of investment house IBI.  The benchmark index bounced off its lows but still finished 0.6% lower at 1,465.24 points. The TA-125 dropped 0.7% at the close to 1,327.95 on turnover of 1.36 billion shekels ($380 million). Bank shares dropped the most, with First International losing 2.2% to 74.35 shekels and Leumi 1.7% to 21.39. Cellular shares were also down sharply as Cellcom Israel lost 4.9% to 24.65 and Partner Communications declined 4.4% to 14.86. Frutarom, however, led the most actives on a 3.9% climb to 345.50 and Teva Pharmaceuticals rose 3.5% to 65.70. TowerJazz gained 1.7% to 94.67 after Standard & Poor’s raised its credit rating to AA-minus from A-plus. (Jasmine Gueta)