Daily Roundup / Eilat Beach Peddlers Lose Appeal, Must Scram

Oil and gas exploration companies score a win on fast-tracked permits; Institutional investors bemoan a longer workday.

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Eilat peddlers lose plea to stay: Despite their threats to call a hunger strike, Eilat's beachfront peddlers must leave in about a week after all, the Be'er Sheva District Court ruled on Monday, rejecting the peddlers' plea to delay executing a court order from two months ago. "It is time for the boardwalk to regain its original character," said Judge Dafna Avnieli, reiterating the original ruling in favor of the state, which says peddlers are operating without permits and encroaching on public land. The peddlers, for their part, argue they should be allowed to stay after so many years selling on the boardwalk, and suggest that instead of working out of makeshift booths, they should be allowed to build attractive little stores that meet city regulations.

Court okays fast-track drilling permits: Oil and gas exploration companies won a big one in court, which on Monday rejected a petition to ban fast-tracking for drilling permits. The High Court of Justice rejected the petition by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, which argued that expediting drilling permits could weaken supervision and enable the companies to create facts on the ground without appropriate checks. While the court was unsympathetic, it did rule that the district planning committees discussing whether to grant permits must consider the attorney-general's directive, which distinguishes between test drills and production drills. Sinking an actual production well will require the normal planning procedure.

Who you gonna sue? A roundup of class-action motions in 2012 shows that the most popular targets for public ire were the Super-Sol retail chain and Partner Communications mobile operator. During this year 1,076 class actions were filed in Israel, a huge increase from 53% from the year before. Of these, 66% were consumer-related issues, roughly unchanged from the year before; in second place were local authorities (16%) followed by insurance companies (4.5%). Then came securities. Looking at food, the most class actions were filed against Super-Sol (14) and dairy and fresh foods company Tnuva (10). As for the municipalities, the area fielding the most class-actions was Haifa, with 12 lawsuits in 2012 (mazal tov), followed by Tel Aviv with 11. And during the year, 107 class actions were filed against the telecom companies, with 12 against Partner, 18 against Pelephone and 16 against Cellcom.

But who's gonna listen? Good question. During the year, 228 class action motions were withdrawn after the plaintiff had second thoughts; 92 were settled; and 79 were rejected by the court, which by the ay means the plaintiff gets slapped with court costs. In 30 cases, the subject of the claims announced it had mended its errant ways; and only in 22 cases did the courts agree to let the class-action claim move forward. Only three rulings were handed down in class-actions, though.

Institutionals horrified by TASE idea of extending extend trading day: Israeli institutional investors are peeved at the decision by Tel Aviv Stock Exchange CEO Ester Levanon, to try to extend the trading day until 5:30 P.M. instead of ending at 4:30. Levanon announced her decision to push through the extension on Monday, three years after spearheading truncation of the trading day from 5 to 4:30. Why did she change her mind? Because a critical mass of Israeli large-caps, more than 40% of the stocks on the benchmark TA-25 index, are now dual-listed on the TASE and in New York. Levanon's concept is to extend the time these dual-listed shares can be traded simultaneously on Wall Street and in Tel Aviv, and to the institutionals griping about being hit with extra costs, she notes that if anything, her tendency is to extend trading to 6:30. So there.

Morgan Stanley, Citi sweeten Koor credit terms: Morgan Stanley and Citi have improved their terms of lending to Koor Industries, the IDB group company said on Monday. The two American banks had lent Koor money to buy shares in the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, in which it presently owns 2.3%. The two agreed to lower the stop-loss share price (at which they could call in their loans to Koor) for Credit Suisse from 12 Swiss francs per share to 11.26. Note that the Swiss bank opened trading in Zurich at CHF 22.56. The parties also agreed that the two banks could recall their loans if Moody's downgrades Credit Suisse from A2 at present to Baa1, or if S&P downgrades the bank below BBB+.

Scailex bondholders agree to sell Partner to Haim Saban: The deal for media mogul Haim Saban to buy mobile operator Partner Communications advanced a step on Monday, after the bondholders assembly smiled on the deal. Scailex owns the controlling stake in Partner, and owes its bondholders a cool NIS 1.5 billion. Half the company's bondholders participated in the vote, which won by a landslide 99.5%. Saban has meanwhile finished due diligence on Partner; now all that remains is for the Communications Ministry to grant its imprimatur.

With reporting by Itai Trilnick

Peddlers along Eilat's storied beachfront are soon to get to the boot.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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