Bitcoin Miner Natural Resources Retains Israeli PR Firm Ahead of Regulatory Battle

Business in Brief: Rami Levy in talks to become partner in Super Cofix grocery gain ■ Shva board approved plans for IPO in first-half of next year ■ Teva, banks weigh on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

FILE PHOTO: A coin representing the bitcoin cryptocurrency is seen on computer circuit boards in this illustration picture, October 26, 2017.
Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Rami Levy in talks to become partner in Super Cofix grocery gain 

Super Cofix, the mostly one-price chain of groceries operated by the Cofix café chain, may soon become Rami Levy supermarkets instead, TheMarker has learned. Sources said the parties were in talks about Rami Levy taking a stake in Super Cofix in an all-share deal and rebranding the 30-store chain as Rami Levy in the Neighborhood. Cofix said in an  announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it was in talks with Rami Levy but also with other, unnamed groups about a partnership and the discussions were in an early stage. Taking a stake in Super Cofix would boost the Rami Levy in the Neighborhood brand, which has just one store. But sources said the Green Lantern investment group, a 50% partner with Cofix in Super Cofix, may only agree to rebranding some of the stores. Cofix shares ended up 5.5% at 8.51 shekels ($2.41). Rami Levy shares added 0.1% to 188 shekels. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

Bitcoin miner Natural Resources retains PR firm ahead of regulatory battle

Natural Resources Holdings, the company at the eye of a storm over regulatory treatment of bitcoin stocks, retained one of Israel’s biggest public relations firm Wednesday. The company, whose share price has soared since it said in October it was entering the bitcoin mining business, retained Scherf Communications a day after Shmuel Hauser, the chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, denounced the phenomenon of “bitcoin stocks” and conferred with Tel Aviv Stock Exchange CEO Ittai Ben-Zeev about barring them from inclusion in TASE indexes. In addition to trying to prevent that, the company wants an exception to rules requiring shares in a company completing a private placement of shares in excess of 75% of equity, as Natural Resources plans to do, to open at par value after the placement is completed. Scherf also represents the TASE. Natural Resources shares, which plunged Tuesday, rebounded Wednesday to end 74% higher at 52 shekels ($14.71). (Guy Erez)

Shva board approved plans for IPO in first-half of next year

Automated Bank Services Limited (Shva), the monopoly company responsible for clearing all the country’s credit card payments, will go public in the first half of 2018 under a plan that was approved by its board Wednesday. The initial public offering will be for between 10% and 30% of the company, which is now controlled by four of Israel’s big five banks, at a market cap that could reach 450 million shekels ($127 million). Three of the four banks are under a government order to sell a substantial portion of their holdings in Shva so that none of them retains more than 10%. Shva’s bank shareholders had considered selling their stakes to a private investors but the government’s 10% ceiling precluded that, so Shva is being taken public instead. Last month the board approved a dividend payment of 175 million shekels, subject to approvals before the IPO. Leumi Partners, Poalim IBI and Discount Capital Underwriting will lead the share sale. (Michael Rochvarger) 

Teva, banks weigh on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

Tel Aviv shares drifted lower on Wednesday, weighed down by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (see story on this page) and the banking sector. The benchmark TA-35 index lost nearly 0.4% to end at 1,457.83 points, while the TA-125 index fell 0.3% to 1,323.73 points, on turnover of 1.07 billion shekels ($300 million). Bank Leumi led the decline in lenders, dropping 1.8% to a close of 19.30 shekels. Bank Hapoalim wasn’t far behind on a 1.75% decline to 23.60, But mall operators Azrieli Group and Melisron were both sharply higher — up 3.8% to 184.80 and 3.2% to 163.60, respectively. Menorah dropped 0.3% to 43.43 even though it became the first Israeli insurer to meet the European Union’s Solvency II standards. That will enable it to resume paying dividends, if its board chooses to do so. Dexia Israel Bank shareholders approved a 300 million shekel dividend late Tuesday, ahead of the bank’s sale next year.  (Guy Erez)