The Ticker: Bank of Israel Holds Key Rate, Sees Little Fallout From Violence

Noble asks to sell stake in Cyprus gas field to BG Group; Cofix doubled revenues in third quarter.

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Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Noble asks to sell stake in Cyprus gas field to BG Group

Texas-based Noble Energy, which is a partner in Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas fields, is seeking approval from the Cypriot government to sell Britain’s BG Group a 35% stake in Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said yesterday. BG would pay $165 million for the stake. Noble would retain a 35% stake and remain the main administrator of the offshore field with Israel’s Delek Group holding the remaining 30%. The island nation’s cabinet was expected to review the request in early December, said Lakkotrypis, who termed the BG sale an important step forward for the country’s plans to supply Egypt with natural gas and a vote of confidence on the commercial prospects of Cyprus’ offshore gas deposits. BG operates a liquefied natural gas plant in Egypt that has been shuttered for lack of gas and has considered importing it from Israel. Noble shares were up 1% at $36.03 mid-day local time in New York. (Eran Azran)

Bank of Israel holds key rate, sees little fallout from violence

The Bank of Israel yesterday left its base lending rate unchanged at 0.1% again for December. The bank said the economic picture remained mixed, with growth picking up in the third quarter and the upsurge of violence over the last several weeks showing only a “moderate” effect on activity. “The number of tourist arrivals in October was 5% lower than the seasonally adjusted average over the first nine months of the year. The Consumer Confidence Index compiled by Bank Hapoalim declined moderately in October, while there was a relatively sharp decline in the index compiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics,” the bank said. It said consumer prices will rise over the next 12 months but below the target range of 1-3% annually, while housing prices and demand remain strong and the shekel is appreciating against the bank’s nominal effective exchange rate. “The monetary committee believes that monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable time,” the Bank of Israel said. (Moti Bassok)

Cofix doubled revenues in third quarter

Cofix, the chain of cafes and supermarkets that sells everything for five shekels ($1.29), continues to grow at a breakneck pace and turn in profits exceeding its rivals. The company, whose low prices have made it a consumer idol, said yesterday that revenues doubled in the third quarter to 35 million shekels, leaving it with net profit of 1.5 million. That amounts to a net margin of 4.5%, compared with 1.5% for supermarket chains Supersol and 2.3% for Rami Levy. At the end of the quarter, Cofix said it had franchised 109 cafes in operation and 25 in development as well as four supermarkets. Cofix broke out its supermarket financials for the first time, reporting sales of 6.5 million shekels for the first nine months, but expansion costs left it with a 766,000-shekel operating lost. Cofix shares ended down 0.7% at 16.61 shekels. (Eran Azran)

Tel Aviv shares finish session lower

Tel Aviv shares ended moderately lower on yesterday. The benchmark TA-25 index ended down 0.2% at 1,577.68 points while the TA-100 lost 0.3% to 1,357.25, on turnover of 1.32 billion shekels ($340 million). Cellphone shares shrugged off a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes Cellcom Israel’s takeover of Golan Telecom. Cellcom ended up 0.3% at 28.15 shekels. “The market is apparently responding cautiously right now to populistic remarks like these and will be looking more closely at what really happened,” said Ilanit Scharf of Psagot Investment House. Bezeq was down 4% to close at 8.12 shekels and Mannkind reversed course after rallying on its CEO’s resignation to finish down 6.5% at 9.01. Spacecom, which tumbled on Sunday on news it lost contact with its Amos 5 satellite, rebounded to end up 9.5% at 38 shekels. Teva Pharmaceuticals rose 1.85% to end at 242.50 after a positive report by Godman Sachs. (Shelly Appelberg)