Business in Brief: Israel's IDE Technology to Build Desalination Plant in Taiwan

Tel Aviv shares tumble ■ Communications Ministry might force Bezeq to hand over fiber optic network to rivals ■ Israeli company wins million contract to build Taiwan desalination plant

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The Palmachim Desalination Plant
The Palmachim Desalination PlantCredit: David Bachar

Tel Aviv shares tank as Wall Street continues its path downward

Tel Aviv shares tumbled Thursday as Wall Street extended its losses from the day before. The benchmark TA-35 index fell 2.1% to end at 1,526.55 points, while the TA-125 lost 2% to 1,380, on turnover of 1.85 billion shekels ($490 million). The drop left the TA-35 down nearly 4.4% since the start of December. U.S. stocks slipped Thursday, continuing their declines from a day earlier. A batch of disappointing earnings reports added to the gloom after the Federal Reserve quashed hopes of a moderation in its interest rate hike trajectory. Among the biggest blue chip losers on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Teva Pharmaceuticals declined 4.9% to 61.60 shekels, B Communications lost 7.7% to 21.70 and Elbit Systems 3.25% to 454.90. Volume leader Bank Leumi eked out an 0.25% rise to 24.15, but few others shares showed gains for the day. Investors fled corporate bonds for government shekel bonds, especially long-dated issues. (Shelly Appelberg)

Communications Ministry weighs taking fiber optic network from Bezeq

The Communications Ministry is weighing a plan that would force Bezeq to hand over its fiber optic network to rivals. The threat marks a sea change since the emergence of Case 4000, which alleges Bezeq won special favors from the ministry while Benjamin Netanyahu was minister. The threat came in a paper issued this week in response to what it calls unreasonable delays by Bezeq in rolling out the network. Israel’s largest telecommunications provider began laying fiber five years ago and today about 60% of Israeli homes are connected. But Bezeq has refused to lay more cable or install the equipment to operate it. It says regulations make it financially unfeasible to offer the service, which significantly increases data transfer speeds. The most likely candidates to get the network are Cellcom Israel and Partner Communications, Israel’s two biggest mobile providers. Bezeq shares ended down 2.1% at 3.69 (98 cents) shekels Thursday. (Nati Tucker)

Housing & Construction in talks to sell 37.5% stake for $226 million

Housing & Construction Limited said Thursday it is in talks to sell its 37.5% stake in property company ADO Group for about 850 million shekels ($226 million). The price represents a 15% premium on ADO shares, which closed 1% higher at 74.08 shekels. H&C controls ADO with Apollo Capital and investor Moshe Dayan, who control 22% and 19.7% of shares, respectively. Under the deal, outsider GO Capital would buy 20% of the H&C stock while Apollo took 10% and Dayan 7.5%, enabling them to avoid making a tender offer to buy out minority shareholders. H&C will use the proceeds to either pay down its debt or issue a dividend, which Naty Saidoff, its new owner, needs to repay a loan he took to buy the company this year from Shari Arison. The company will earn a handsome profit on the sale, as the ADO stake is listed on its books at 288 million shekels. Neverthless, H&C shares ended down 3.6% at 6.44 shekels on Thursday. (Shelly Appelberg)

IDE wins $75 million contract to build Taiwan desalination plant

IDE Technology, the maker of desalination technology half owned by Delek Group, said it has begun work a $75 million contract to build a reverse osmosis facility for Taiwan’s Formosa Petrochemicals. The facility, which will be built in Yunlin County, will have an annual production capacity of 36 million cubic meters of water and be operated by IDE for the first two years. It will feature the first deployment of technology developed by IDE to reduce boron from seawater, to just 0.01 parts per milliliter, the company said. Reducing boron levels was a key requirement by Formosa Chemicals, which has seen its quota for fresh water reduced by the government. IDE beat out the Singaporean firm Hiflux for the contract, which could lead to Taiwanese government contracts in the future. (Yoram Gabison)

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