Markets in Brief

Israel’s billionaires salute Baron de Rothschildat Bank Leumi’s 101 birthday bash in London

Mazal tov: Bank Leumi held its grand 110th birthday party at the 600-year old Guildhall grand building in London this week, where staffers were treated to some of Israel’s biggest businessmen (and borrowers) singing along to “If I were Rothschild” by the emcee of the evening, Haim Topol. In a neat coincidence, the summer protests over the cost of living centered on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Among the revelers decked out in their finest were billionaire businessmen Lev and Olga Leviev of Africa Israel Investments, Yitzhak and Haya Tshuva of Delek Group, Alfred Akirov of Alrov (who owns 3.5% of Bank Leumi’s stock), hotelier Eli Papouchado, noted lawyer Ram Caspi, and Giora Offer, the former CEO of Discount Bank. (Sivan Aizescu and Sharon Shpurer)

Herry Lawford

Hapoalim cutting back on call center temps

Meanwhile, in other news of the Israeli banking sector, Bank Hapoalim has summoned more than 40 workers at its call center in Nesher to a hearing ahead of dismissal. In most cases, the workers are temps who are nearing four years of employment with the bank, which means Hapoalim, the biggest bank in the land, has to decide whether to take them directly onto the payroll or bid them farewell. In August several dozen more workers at Nesher reach the four-year deadline and will face the same treatment. Fired workers will be replaced by new temps that again, may work for four years before the bank decides whether to keep them or let them go. Its reluctance is based on rigid collective employment agreements and the union that blocks dismissals, which impair the bank's flexibility. Some report that the bank is offering them tenured jobs, but for significantly less pay. In other news of Hapoalim's cutbacks, it is reducing the working hours at its call centers; no more Russian-language service after 7 P.M., and on Friday the center will shut down at 2 P.M. instead of 3 P.M. (Sivan Aizescu )

Taldor Systems in talks to buy GlassHouse

Information tech company Taldor Systems is in advanced negotiations to buy information-technology company GlassHouse, located in Ra'anana. In fact there are three bids for GlassHouse, which had Bank Leumi shut down its credit line in recent days because of the company's financial difficulties. Buying GlassHouse would expand Taldor's customer base, which includes not a few government bodies. The sums involved are not known but industry insiders surmise the buyer will pay just NIS 3 million to NIS 5 million for GlassHouse, although its U.S. parent company GlassHouse Technologies paid NIS 60 million for it in 2007. (Oren Freund )

Court blocks Ultra Shape stock placement

Earlier this week, the Tel Aviv District Court issued a temporary order, in closed court, blocking the decision by the stock market shell of Ultra Shape to allocate shares to Yosef Gurvitz, son of Meir Gurvitz who owns the real estate company Arazim. Ultra Shape is trading as a shell devoid of liabilities. It has $12 million in its kitty, which led three companies to buy 18% with an eye to a takeover in the future. But the three "shell collection" companies discovered that before they had a chance to convene an assembly of Ultra Shape shareholders to appoint a director on their behalf to the board, Ultra Shape had allocated 24.99% of its stock to Gurvitz the Younger. The judge blocked the allocation until the court has a chance to discuss it. "When approving the private placement of stock, a majority of directors had a personal interest in its approval, as they had a request from the dominant shareholder to replace them on the job," according to an opinion appended to the petition. Sources near the company say Gurvitz had made the best offer, being willing to buy the company as-is and undertake the risks. (Shelly Appelberg )

Mozi Wertheim delisting Neviot

The Neviot mineral water company will be delisted from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange after its parent company, Mozi Wertheim's Central Bottling Company, sweetened its offer to buy the subsidiary's shares from the general public. The parent company, better known as Coca Cola Israel, offered NIS 14.75 per share, which was 14% higher than its previous offer. Altogether the move will cost it NIS 15.2 million, pricing Neviot at NIS 142 million. A month ago Neviot was moved to the TASE Maintenance List of companies in noncompliance with listing rules. The problem was that its public float was too low: 10.67% compared with the minimum requirement of 15%. Neviot and Israel's other mineral water companies recently made headlines for the report that they make use of wellwater provided by the Mekorot water utility, not only water from natural springs. (Oren Freund )