Daily Roundup / After Winter Storm, Grocers Raking It In

Apax taps Ravit Barniv for Tnuva leadership while Bank of Israel holds up damning report on government until after the votes roll in on Tuesday.

Grocers making hay from storm: The winter storm that battered the Middle East earlier this month decimated certain crops, including strawberries – and cucumbers. But retailers seem to be taking untoward advantage of the situation. The wholesale price for the green salad-fruit has dropped back from heights of NIS 7.80 per kilo to NIS 4, but the supermarket chains haven't lowered the price to shoppers. As of Monday the Super-Sol Sheli inner-city stores and Mega outlets were still charging NIS 10 per kilo for cukes, or a markup of more than 100%. They were charging much the same markup for hot peppers and fennel bulbs, by the way.

Apax rolls over partners, names Ravit Barniv to chair Tnuva: Over the objections of minority shareholders Mivtach Shamir and the kibbutzim, Ravit Barniv has been appointed the latest chairwoman of the Tnuva fresh-foods conglomerate, at the behest of majority shareholder Apax Partners. Barniv takes over from Shmuel Even, who took over from Shlomo Rodav, who took over from Zehavit Cohen, who was shown the door after Tnuva found itself targeted by social-justice protesters claiming it abused its monopolistic power to charge unreasonably high prices. Barniv, however, is actually an appointment by Zehavit Cohen, who chairs Apax Israel, which controls Tnuva. Mivtach Shamir had opposed Barniv's appointment based on the claim that appointing the chairman to Tnuva is its prerogative. Apax Israel would seem to disagree.

Bank of Israel sitting on damning report: The Bank of Israel is holding up a report on the performance of the incumbent government until after the election, reportedly because of sharp criticism over fiscal management, which could hurt Israel's debt-to-GDP ratio. The election is Tuesday, by the way, but the report will be held up for some weeks. The government itself enacted a law requiring it to lower the debt-GDP ratio each year, but evidently it didn't diminish in 2012 – it stayed at about 74%, the same as in 2011, or possibly even increased to more than 75% (so say some sources). The figures for 2012 are not final, of course; for one thing there is no final figure for Israel's economic growth last year.

Replacing Avi Gabay as Bezeq CEO – Stella Handler? Israeli businesswoman Stella Handler is reportedly at the top of the shortlist to be the Bezeq phone company's next CEO, if her former employer doesn't torpedo the appointment, say sources in the industry. Her last job had been chairwoman of HOT; if the owners of the arch-rival telecoms company object, Bezeq will back down rather than get into a legal spat over her cooling-off period. Bezeq CEO Avi Gabay unexpectedly quit after six years on the job, though he is reportedly going to stay on for months until a proper succession can be arranged. Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch categorically stated yesterday that no decisions have been made about on Gabay's replacement.

Allium gets go ahead to send stents down under: Allium Medical has received confirmation to market its stents in Australia and New Zealand, from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. News of the confirmation sent Allium stock up more than 10% in Sunday trading. The company already sells its stents, which are wire-mesh tubules to prop open cardiac vessels after surgery, in Asia Pacific and Europe.

Elbit Imaging seeking new investor: Elbit Imaging is pulling out all the tops to meet its liabilities and is seeking a new investor, chairman Shimon Yitzhak promised at an assembly of bondholders on Sunday. He also said that the company's controlling shareholder, Moti Zisser, had intended to attend the assembly but couldn't make it because of an urgent medical problem. Elbit Imaging owes NIS 2.5 billion to bondholders. In the next 12 months it has to pay NIS 600 million to banks and bondholders. It has a few hundred million shekels cash in hand.

With reporting by Yoram Gabison, Adi Dovrat-Meseritz, Amir Teig and Shelly Appelberg

Gil Eliahu