Business in Brief

Demand for workers leaped 20% in March

Businesses were looking to hire 19.8% more workers in March compared to February. The Central Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that the biggest jump in demand was for workers in the food and lodging industry, with an additional 4,900 job openings as the sector geared up for the Passover holiday. The number of open jobs in March rose to 68,800 from 57,400 the month before - about 3% of the total of jobs and openings. The number of new jobs rose 1.8% in the first quarter of the year over the last quarter of 2011. (Moti Bassok )

Ex-analyst fined for recommending ICL while seeking a job at the company

Former equity analyst Limor Gruber was fined NIS 7,500 by the Israel Securities Authority for enthusiastically recommending Israel Chemicals while negotiating to work at the company. At a meeting with analysts in May 2011, Gruber asked if ICL might have work for her. That same day she recommended investors buy the company's stock. A month and a half later she was offered a job at ICL in investor relations - and the same day wrote another Buy recommendation for it with a 12-month price target of NIS 70, a cool 33% over the stock's level on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The next day Gruber accepted ICL's job offer. Her papers on the company contained no mention of the potential conflict of interest. Gruber declined to comment. (Noam Bar )

Ailing Ayalon axes '13th salary' bonuses

The Ayalon insurance group is canceling "13th salary" bonuses for all workers grossing more than NIS 7,500 a month, following heavy losses in 2011. Ayalon has 928 employees, most at its insurance arm and some at subsidiaries such as insurance agencies. One of those employees is Levi Rahmani, who owns 83% of the group's shares and serves as CEO; he grossed NIS 12 million in 2011. His son, chairman Noga Rahmani, grossed NIS 3.9 million. Daughter Nehama grossed NIS 1.8 million. The Israel Securities Authority recently criticized pay practices at Ayalon, saying pay for the children had not been approved in accordance with the rules. After that, a shareholder filed a NIS 100 million derivative claim against the group, which remains pending. (Noam Bar )

Canada's Senvest invests in local gas search

Canadian holding company Senvest Capital has entered the race to discover new natural gas reserves off Israel's coast by buying a stake in Israel Opportunity, the Israeli firm said on Tuesday. Senvest Capital bought a 5.62% stake worth NIS 10 million in Israel Opportunity, which has a 10% interest in five different offshore licenses, Israel Opportunity said. The areas of the licenses are adjacent to fields where huge natural gas deposits were recently discovered, Tamar and Leviathan. The Israel Opportunity partnership was founded by the Halman-Aldubi investment house. (Reuters and TheMarker )