Business in Brief / Africa Israel Returns to Profitability in First Quarter

Delek in talks to boost stake in Cyprus gas field, Azrieli in pact to sell Supergas to Tadiran, and telecoms stocks carry TASE higher.

Ofer Vaknin

Africa Israel returns to profitability in first quarter

Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments said late on Sunday it moved into profit in the first quarter, on the heels of improvement in all its businesses. The property-holding company earned 9 million shekels ($2.3 million) in the quarter, although income from rent and operation of properties was largely flat at 138 million shekels. The profit turned around from a 0.5-million-shekel loss a year earlier, and an 851-million-shekel loss in the final three months of 2014 due to a revaluation of investment property at its Russian unit, AFI Development. CEO Avraham Novogrocki noted that AFI made a $6 million profit in the quarter, despite a Russian economy in recession. Profit at Africa’s residential unit grew 35% to 12 million shekels, while at construction subsidiary Danya Cebus it grew 34% to 19 million shekels. Income at its Africa Israel Properties, which builds offices and other commercial buildings, doubled to 49 million shekels. Africa shares jumped 4.3% to end at 3.60 shekels.

Delek in talks to boost stake in Cyprus gas field

In an unexpected move, Delek Group said on Monday it is in talks to buy an additional 19.9% stake of the offshore Cyprus gas field Aphrodite from its partner – Texas-based Noble Energy – for about $155 million, which values the entire field at $1.1 billion. The move would make the two nearly equal partners in the field, where Noble has a 70% stake. Aphrodite, located in Block 12 off the Cypriot coast, is estimated to contain 4.54 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Delek, through its Delek Drilling and Avner subsidiaries, holds the remaining 30%. The negotiations are at an early stage and being conducted on a nonexclusive basis. Any deal would need various regulatory approvals, Delek said. Shares of Delek, which is a partner with Noble in Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan fields and wants to develop Aphrodite in parallel with Leviathan, rose 0.4% to end at 1,145 shekels ($295.7).

Azrieli in pact to sell Supergas to Tadiran

Azrieli Group confirmed reports late on Sunday that it was selling its Supergas unit to Tadiran Holdings for 250 million shekels ($64.6 million) as it divests businesses outside its core shopping mall holdings. As part of the sale, Azrieli will take out the 176 million shekels in cash on Supergas’ books before the sale is competed, but give Tadiran an 80-million-shekel loan. Supergas sells natural gas to business and home users, and has a joint venture with Shapir Engineering building gas pipelines. Tadiran, which recently sold its money-losing home-electrical appliance business, is now focused on importing air conditioners and related products. Azrieli has been selling off companies belonging to its Granite Hacarmel unit, and now has the sale of gas retailer Sonol and its 4.8% stake in Bank Leumi in its sights. Azrieli shares ended down 1.5% at 165 shekels on Monday.

Telecoms stocks carry TASE higher

Telecoms shares led the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange higher on Monday, buttressed by higher markets around the world. The benchmark TA-25 index added 0.4% to end at 1,694.25 points, while the TA-100 rose 0.6% to 1,467.74, on turnover of 1.43 billion shekels ($369.3 million). Investment House Top Alpha said it expected the market to extend its gains. “We see an average price-earnings ratio 13% less than in Europe and the United States, volatility that signals a bull market and the heavy capitalization indices should rally far into 2015,” it said. Among telecom stocks, B Communications finished up 4.3% at 63.87, Cellcom Israel gained 3.4% to 16.18 and Partner Communications 2.9% to 9.26. Bank Hapoalim led the most actives, but rose only 0.7% to 20.6 after controlling shareholder Shari Arison sold 167 million shekels-worth of stock at 20 shekels each.