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The Ticker: ICL Owes Gov’t Up to $450 Million After Arbitrators’ Royalties Ruling

Central bank to hold monetary briefings; Treasury takes steps to help pension savers; biomed stocks lead losses in heavy trading.

Potash at an Israel Chemicals production plant.
Potash at an Israel Chemicals production plant.Credit: Bloomberg

Israel Chemicals could end up paying between $350 million and $450 million in royalties to the government retroactive to the years 2000-2013 after arbitrators ruled over the weekend. The decision will also mean the level of royalties the company pays between now and 2030 when its current licenses runs out will double if it keeps production at current levels.

In the decision, arbitrators ruled that the company must pay full royalties on downstream products originating from its mining the Dead Sea, whether ICL controls the downstream company wholly or partly. ICL had paid $90 million until now in related royalties for the years and provisioned just $140 million for future payments in its 2014 financial reports. For now, the company doesn’t plan to set aside any further money and is considering what legal action it could still take to appeal the decision.

The treasury said it felt otherwise. “The decision of the arbitrators, who adopted most of the government’s claims, is justified from a legal and public [policy] point of view,” it said. ICL shares ended down 0.7% at 27.42 shekels ($7.13). ()

Central bank to hold monetary briefings

Following the practice at most of the developed world’s central banks, the Bank of Israel will begin holding a quarterly press briefing on monetary policy, the central bank said yesterday. “The objective is to increase the public’s understanding of the considerations behind the monetary committee’s policy decisions,” it said. The first will take place on Monday, June 22, at 4:15 P.M., 15 minutes after it announces its July monetary program.

Broadcast live on the Bank of Israel website, the governor will present the conditions under which policy operated during the quarter, what factors went into rate decisions, and answer questions from the press. In addition, the research department’s quarterly macroeconomic forecast will be published, together with the rate decision at the end of the quarter, with the director of the research team making a presentation.

Treasury takes steps to help pension savers

Inactive pension accounts will be transferred automatically into a saver’s active account, the treasury said yesterday, unveiling measures aimed at increasing competition in the pensions sector. The aim, the ministry said, was to simplify retirement savings, reduce costs and prevent pension savings from getting lost in the system. About 25 billion shekels ($6.5 billion) in savings is in inactive accounts, it estimated.

Another measure will create standards for pension products to make it easier for savers to decide which ones to use, and a third will create an annuity-style option for provident funds, enabling the saver to get a set amount of money on a periodic basis rather than as a lump sum. “Reforms, aimed at increasing competition in the pension market and improving the status of savers, is a key goal of the Capital Market Division’s strategic program,” Dorit Salinger, the unit’s head, said.

Biomed stocks lead losses in heavy trading

Tel Aviv shares ended lower yesterday, weighed down by lower world stock markets over the weekend and biomed shares. The benchmark TA-25 index lost 0.3% to end at 1,691.66 points, while the TA-100 fell 0.25% to 1,453.11. Turnover reached an unusually heavy 1.83 billion shekels ($480 million), as institutions rejiggered their portfolios to reflect changes in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s indices. Perrigo ended down a sharp 2.4% at 703 shekels, in heavy trading that reached close to 400 million shekels. Other big losers were holding companies Kenon, down 3% to end at 79.14, and Discount Investment Corporation, down 5.7% to 7.01. Biomed stocks were led lower by Protalix’s 4.4% drop to 7.71 shekels and a 4% decline for Mazor Robotics to 24.60 shekels. Opko Health was down 2.6% by close to 59.51. But Teva Pharmaceuticals surged 2.4% to 293.20. The company increased its stake in acquisition target Mylan to 3.5%.

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