Bank of Israel Wont Recognize Bitcoin as a Currency

Business in Brief: Altshuler in joint venture to provide blockchain-based investment services ■ Delek Group signs deal to take stakes in 12 Gulf of Mexico concessions ■ Mellanox projections come under attack by hedge fund Starboard

File photo: A Bitcoin logo is seen on a cryptocurrency ATM.
LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS

Altshuler in joint venture to provide blockchain-based investment services

Altshuler Shaham, one of Israels biggest investment managers, is teaming up with Aharon Navon to form a joint venture to help clients invest in bitcoin and other blockchain-technology-based currencies, TheMarker has learned. We have been exploring the area of digital assets and currency for some time in order to develop a deep understanding of this complicated world, the company said. We plan to offer innovative services characterized by a high level of trust, professionalism and responsibility to qualified investors seeking exposure to financial instruments based on the blockchain, the company confirmed. The venture will put Altshuler into one of the hottest segments of the financial market, which today counts $850 billion in assets. But the sector is only starting to be regulated and even many investment professionals dont have a clear understanding of it.  Navon, a securities trader, was acquitted last year of any part in a 2007 scheme to manipulate the price of government bonds. (Assa Sasson and Jasmin Gueta)

Bank of Israel wont recognize bitcoin as a currency

The Bank of Israel said on Monday it would not recognize virtual currencies such as bitcoin as actual currency and that it was difficult to devise regulations to monitor the risks of such activity to the countrys banks and their clients. Deputy Governor Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg said there had been complaints that banks were making it difficult for some customers to transfer money from their accounts to buy bitcoin, but she said that this was something the central bank would not be able to address. The Bank of Israels position is that they should be viewed as a financial asset, Baudot-Trajtenberg told a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, noting that there was no government responsibility for investors in bitcoin. Lawmakers urged regulators to quickly come up with regulations .There seems to be a greater possibility that they will become central to our financial lives, said Moshe Gafni, the chairman of the panel. (Reuters)

Delek Group signs deal to take stakes in 12 Gulf of Mexico concessions

Yitzhak Tshuvas Delek Group on Monday took another step toward turning itself into a global energy group, saying it had signed a deal with the U.S. companies GulfSlope Energy and Texas South Energy to explore 12 concessions in the Gulf of Mexico. Delek agreed to cover 90% of the costs for the first two drill sites for up to $50 million in exchange for 75% of the rights in the first stage. Outside consultants said their best estimate was for 99 million barrels of oil and 177 billion cubic feet of natural gas, Delek said. CEO Yossi Abu said the U.S. firms preferred a smaller partner because it would allow them to retain an equity stake in the concessions while an energy major would insists on buying the fields outright, he said. Shares of Delek, which is preparing to list its shares in London, ended up 0.7% at 621.50 shekels ($180.35) in Tel Aviv. (Eran Azran)

Mellanox projections come under attack by hedge fund Starboard

Starboard Value LP turned the screws tighter on Mellanox on Monday, saying the Israeli chipmakers 2018 growth targets were insufficient and too reliant on revenue increases. The targets are not nearly enough to offset years of poor performance and missed earnings guidance, said Starboard, which became Mellanoxs biggest shareholder after it bought a 10.7% stake in November. The criticism came after the Israeli chipmaker last month forecast revenue growth in the low to mid-teens for fiscal 2018, nowhere near the 19% to 30% rates it posted in 2014 and 2016, although much improved over 2017. Mellanox had also forecast 2018 operating margins would be bigger than in 2017, but smaller than in 2016. But Starboard slammed the targets for being merely reactionary and, even if achieved, do not come close to addressing the magnitude of the companys problems. Mellanox shares were trading up 0.15% at 54.90 in New York late morning local time. (Omri Zerachovitz)

Bezeq group shares weigh on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange 

Tel Aviv shares ended lower on Monday, weighed down by Bezeq group. The TA-35 and TA-125 idiocies both ended the day about 0.4% lower at 1,520.21 and 1,391.05 points, respectively, as 1.42 billion shekels ($410 million) in shares changed hands. Internet Gold led Bezeq group shares lower, falling 2% to 31.76 shekels. Bezeq itself fell 1.4% to 5.37 and B Communications lost 1.5% to 63.36. Biotime dropped 5.7% to 8.38, making it the biggest loser on the TA-125, and breaking a five-session winning streak. Teva Pharmaceuticals, the most active share of the day, ended up 1.5% to 66.20.  Can-Fite  jumped 10.7% after signing a multimillion-dollar distribution agreement with Germanys Gebro Holding to distribute Can-Fites CF101 rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drug candidate in Spain, Switzerland and Austria. Mazor Robotics briefly rallied on news it sold 27 of its surgical systems in the fourth quarter, but the stock pulled back from initial gains to end up just 90.15% at 99.80. (Omri Zerachovitz)