Market Report / Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Ends on High Note on Backdrop of Obama Visit

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The trading day on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange ended slightly higher on Wednesday. Trading came against the backdrop of the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama and the decision of the Cypriot parliament to reject the terms of a European bailout package for the Eurozone country. The benchmark Tel Aviv-25 index ended marginally higher, 0.03% to be exact, at 1,1249.37 points. The broader Tel Aviv-100 index gained 0.06% in value on the day's trading, closing at 1,112.58. 

The Banks-5 index declined by 0.75%, led by Israel Discount Bank shares, which slumped by 3% following the release of the bank's latest financial results. The Real Estate-15 index gained 0.9% while the Oil and Gas index showed greater strength, adding 1.75% of its value thanks notably to Ofer Nimrodi's Israel Land Development Company Energy shares, which surged by 11% on news that it has a new natural gas exploration partner for its Emmanuele Adriatic subsidiary, which as its name implies is involved in energy exploration in the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Albania. 

Shares of the Strauss and Azrieli groups both gained 1.3% in trading on Wednesday. Net profit at Strauss rose 2% percent in the fourth quarter, boosted by higher sales at its dips and spread joint ventures with PepsiCo. Strauss posted quarterly adjusted net income of NIS 68 million on Wednesday, up from NIS 67 million a year earlier. Sales rose 1.6% to NIS 2.1 billion, including a 3.5% rise in its sales in Israel. The company is a market leader in roast and ground coffee in central and eastern Europe. It is also the second-largest company in the Israeli food and beverage market. Strauss' global coffee sales fell 2.2% to NIS 1.125 billion though operating profit in the coffee segment rose by 11.2%. 

Real estate developer the Azrieli Group swung to a profit in the fourth quarter, boosted by high occupancy rates at its properties in Israel and the United States and a rise in the value of its stake in Bank Leumi. The company, which is controlled by David Azrieli and has numerous investments in Israel including several shopping malls, said Wednesday that it had net profit of NIS 369 million compared with a loss of NIS 129 million a year earlier. The loss was due to a rise in tax liability as new regulations resulted in an increase in deferred taxes. 

Elbit Systems shares rose 0.9% after landing a new $80 Asian deal to upgrade armored vehicles via its Elop subsidiary. In other share trading, Babylon, the translation software company, slumped by 5,7%. Shares in Kardan N.V., the real estate development firm,  plummeted by 23.8% on news that the rating agency S&P Ma'alot had downgraded the company's credit rating one notch to BB with a negative outlook over a decline in the company's liquidity picture. And shares of Bioline RX lost more than half their value, 52.21% to be exact, after it was forced to stop trials in connection with the development of a drug to 
treat schizophrenia. 

Shares of Discount Investment Corp., which is part of Nochi Dankner's IDB group and controls a number of companies including Cellcom cellular and Super-Sol supermarkets, reported Tuesday after the end of trading that it had a net loss of NIS 481 million for last year as a whole. Discount Investment shares lost 2% in trading on Wednesday. The loss was substantially smaller than the NIS 2 billion loss the company suffered the year before. A major factor in the results was the improvement in the value of shares in the Swiss bank Credit Suisse in which the IDB subsidiary has a stake. 

Super-Sol competitor Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing, shares of which rose 1.1% on Wednesday, announced on its website that it was not taking any more online supermarket orders in the Gush Dan area--Tel Aviv and its immediate environs--until after Monday evening, when the Passover seder meal is conducted.

Israel Discount Bank CEO Reuven Spiegel presents the bank's yearly financial reports on March 12, 2011.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum