Israel Chemicals Pink Slips Workers

Ormat Tech in talks to sell stakes in geothermal plants; Bezeq deterred competition, Antitrust Authority concludes; Tel Aviv stock extends sideways move.

Israel Chemicals' Dead Sea Works potash plant in Sodom, October 2013.
Israel Chemicals' Dead Sea Works potash plant in Sodom, October 2013.Credit: Reuters

Israel Chemicals sent pre-dismissal notices to 144 employees of its Dead Sea Bromine Compounds unit on Sunday, as union leaders vowed to strike if management refused to negotiate. “This is brutal behavior by management, because the notices are coming while negotiations are underway,” said Avner Ben-Senior, chairman of the Bromine workers committee. ICL management said the firings are part of a wider cost-cutting program underway after the government accepted the recommendations of its Sheshinski committee to increase taxes on natural resource companies like ICL. The Bromine plant has seen its profitability erode due to falling world prices and tepid demand for its flame retardants and other products. The move came days after ICL CEO Stefan Borgas told Reuters it would lay off some 600 employees in Israel over the next three years, about 12% of the total. ICL shares rose 0.15% to 26.99 shekels ($7.07).

Ormat Tech in talks to sell stakes in geothermal plants

Ormat Technologies has begun talks to sell minority stakes in an unspecified, but “small,” number of its geothermal power stations to raise additional capital. The company, the U.S. unit of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-traded Ormat Industries, said it would sell stakes up to 49% in each of the power plants, while retaining operational and management controls of the facilities. It estimated the combined value of the stations at $425 million based on combined annual revenues in the nine months through September. The sale would represent 20.7% of its revenue from power generation, which reached $289 million in the nine months. Ormat said the two sides were in the early stage of negotiations, and that the valuation it had put on the plants was not final. Shares of Ormat Industries, which is due to be merged into its U.S. unit, advanced 1.9% to close at 26.18 shekels ($6.86).

Bezeq deterred competition, Antitrust Authority concludes

Bezeq, Israel’s biggest telecommunications provider, abused its monopoly position to prevent rivals from competing with it to offer telephone services, the Antitrust Authority said in a report issued Sunday. The authority said Bezeq required those who subscribed to its Internet services, but opted to use the telephone service of a competitor, like Netvision or Smile, to pay 25 shekels ($6.55) a month. At the same time, it offered a package of 200 minutes' phone calls for just 19.90 shekels, which tens of thousands of people opted to take. “Bezeq exploited its monopoly states in Internet and telephony to block smaller rivals,” concluded Assaf Eilat, deputy antitrust commissioner. The authority said its conclusions can be used by Bezeq’s competitors, as well as customers, as the basis for lawsuits seeking compensation, said attorney Tzahi Yagur of the law firm Shavit Bar-On Gal-On Tzin Yagur. Bezeq shares rose 1.1% to a close of 6.60 shekels.

Tel Aviv stock extends sideways move

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange extended its journey sideways on Sunday, ending another day mixed in thin trading. The benchmark TA-25 index edged up 0.03% to end at 1,446.23 points, while the TA-100 ended unchanged at 1,289.55, all on turnover of just 412 million shekels ($108 million). Teva Pharmaceuticals, the most heavily traded share of the session, ended down 2.3% at 218.20. Biotech small caps also dropped sharply lower, with Protalix down 2.9% to 7.73 and Compugen off 2.8% at 25.10. Among tech stocks, Perion Network dropped 3.1% to 21.80 shekels, while TowerJazz extended gains from a strong third-quarter earnings performance last week, advancing 3% to finish at 42.77 shekels. In the fixed income market, the government’s 10-year shekel bond rose 0.2%, cutting its yield to 2.09%, while its Galil inflation-indexed bond gained 0.29%, leaving its yield at 0.42% after the government reported higher-than-expected inflation for October of 0.3%.

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