Business in Brief

The Ticker: Tel Aviv Shares Trade Quietly Despite Unrest

Novartis to put $15m into drug startup Gamida Cell; FIMI sells Rivulus stake to India's Dhanna; Delek takes 20% stake in North Sea oil firm.

Yael Engelhart

Novartis to put $15m into drug startup Gamida Cell

Swiss drugmaker Novartis will invest up to an extra $15 million in Gamida Cell, an Israeli developer of stem cell therapies, Gamida said on Sunday.

The $15 million proceeds will be used to advance Gamida’s clinical programs, including the development of NiCord, an experimental treatment for patients with high risk hematological malignancies, or blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma and sickle cell disease. Gamida plans to initiate a Phase III clinical trial with NiCord in mid-2016.

As part of the latest deal, Novartis will immediately invest $5 million in Gamida for an additional 2.5% stake. Also, subject to the close of an equity financing by the end of 2017 to fund the late stage development of NiCord, Novartis will invest up to another $10 million.

Novartis last year invested $35 million in the company for a 15% stake, in a deal that could reach $600 million if Novartis exercises a buyout option that expires in 2016. Shares of Clal Biotechnology, whose stake in Gamida falls to 18% with the initial Novartis investment, ended down 0.3% at shekels 2.82 (74 cents). (Reuters)

FIMI sells Rivulus stake to India’s Dhanna

Just 16 months after it acquired the drip irrigation company now called Rivulus from John Deere, the private equity fund FIMI is selling a stake in the company at nearly three times the valuation. India’s Dhanna Engineering (DEL) has agreed to buy a 20% stake in Rivulus for $34 million in a deal valuing Rivulus at $170 million, FIMI said on Sunday.

GilonBeck, the FIMI partner and Rivulus chairman, said DEL would help the company penetrate the lucrative Indian market and the Asia markets generally.

The Firodia family, which controls Dhanna Engineering, also controls a major Indian manufacturer of light vehicles called Force Motors. FIMI bought Rivulus, then called John Deere Water, for $60 million in 2014 after the U.S. make of farm equipment ran up losses owning the company. This year, Rivulus is expected to show a $10 million profit on sales of $220 million. (Yoram Gabison)

Delek takes 20% stake in North Sea oil firm

Delek Group, Yitzhak Tshuva’s holding company, has acquired a near 20% stake in North-Sea focused oil producer Ithaca Energy for $66 million, the companies said on Friday.

The deal shows that investors still see value in North Sea related businesses, despite a slump in oil prices and high operating costs in one of the world’s most mature oil and gas basins. Ithaca, whose London-listed shares have sunk more 60% since oil prices started to decline in June 2014, said it would use Delek’s investment to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debt.

“The investment provides a solid vote of confidence in the long term value of Ithaca by a successful oil and gas investor,” said Ithaca chief executive Les Thomas in a statement. Ithaca’s London-listed stock jumped 12.4% to a 50-pence (77 cents) closing. In Tel Aviv, shares of Delek, which has been paring down its portfolio to concentrate on the energy business, edged 0.01% higher to 890.10.  (Reuters)

Tel Aviv shares trade quietly despite unrest

Tel Aviv shares traded quietly on Sunday, with the leading shares indices showing only slight declines in very light trading. Palestinian unrest continued on Sunday, but the market got some cheer from higher prices in global markets over the weekend.

The benchmark TA-25 index ended down 0.2% at 1,517.26 points, while the TA-100 ended virtually unchanged at 1,324.96. Turnover was just 412 million shekels ($107.6 million), low even for a Sunday. Among the biggest losers in blue chip stocks, Israel Chemicals sank 2.2% to end at 21.10 and Bank Leumi lost 1.5% to close at 15.02. El Al Airlines, which stands to lose passengers if the unrest continues, tumbled 6.6% to end at 1.56 shekels while IDB Development ended down 9% at 1.92. Perrigo jumped 3.1% to 618.60 after Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal said he expected the company to announce a major acquisition before October 23. In the fixed-income market, the government’s 10-year shekel bond fell 0.29% to raise its yield to 2.18%. (Shelly Appelberg)