Business in Brief / Bank of Israel Buys a Few Dollars More ($1 Billion of Them)

PayPal in talks to buy Be’er Sheva startup, HOT Telecom cuts costs and boosts profits by 170%

Dreamstime

Central bank bought $1 billion of dollars in February

The Bank of Israel said on Thursday it spent more than $1 billion in February buying foreign currency to weaken the shekel. The central bank said it bought $800 million to soak up demand for dollars, and another $245 million on its program of foreign currency buying, which is aimed at neutralizing the effect of lower energy imports and demand for dollars due to natural gas production from the offshore Tamar field. The Bank of Israel has been seeking to weaken the shekel in order to encourage exports and economic growth. The bank also cut its base lending rate to 0.1% as part of the same shekel-weakening strategy. The $1.045 billion in dollar purchases boosted Israel’s foreign currency reserves for the first time since November, up $651 million from a year ago to about $85.3 billion, although they still are below the $87.6 billion record reached last August.

PayPal in talks to buy Be’er Sheva startup

Be’er Sheva’s Cyber Valley – the emerging center for computer security startups – may be on its way to its first exit. PayPal, the online payments company, is in advanced talks to buy the startup CyActive and is likely to sign an agreement in the next few days, sources said. The purchase price has not been finalized, but will likely be less than $100 million. CyActive was formed in 2013 by Liran Tancman and Shlomi Boutnaru, CEO and chief technology officer, respectively, and employs 10 people in the Be’er Sheva cyber-incubator operated by the Jerusalem Venture Partners fund. Its technology has the ability to automatically forecast the future of malware evolution, based on bio-inspired algorithms. PayPal and JVP declined to comment.

HOT boosts operating profit by 170%

HOT Telecom boosted operating profits last year by 170%, as aggressive cost-cutting offset declining revenues. The company, which offers cable television and telephone services, said Thursday that its operating profit grew to 576 million shekels ($144 million), turning around a 62 million-shekel loss in 2013 into a net profit of 216 million shekels in 2014. The cuts more than compensated for a 4% decline in revenues for the company to 4.05 billion shekels. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, grew 13% to 1.81 billion shekels. HOT, which is controlled by French entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, lost 22,000 subscribers for its cable TV service (down to 853,000) and 31,000 Internet subscribers, to 713,000. However, its HOT Mobile unit added 164,000 subscribers, to reach 974,000. More recently, the company has said the number now exceeds one million.