Business in Brief

Knesset committee clears hotel-rating plan 

The Knesset Economics Committee voted to restore Israel's official system of hotel ratings after a 20-year hiatus, approving a plan devised by the Tourism Ministry with a few minor changes. The ministry will spend NIS 4 million to implement the rating systems, which will follow one called Hotelstars, used by 11 countries of the European Union. It rates hotels from one to five stars using 270 criteria. Under the Tourism MInistry plans, hotels can choose not to be rated, an option which Shmuel Marom, chairman of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, said he opposed. "It can't be voluntary. Either it's everyone or no one. It would be enough that one [hotel] chain opts out of the ratings and then we have a problem of discrimination that creates a chaotic situation," he said. (Rina Rozenberg)


Bouyant arms spending boosts Elbit’s second-quarter sales

Buoyant military spending in Latin America and Asia is filling the order books of Israeli defense electronics firm Elbit Systems, helping it ride out a budget squeeze in the United States and Europe. Posting higher-than-expected earnings yesterday, CEO Joseph Ackerman said the second quarter had continued a trend of increased revenue from the Latin American and Asia-Pacific regions, which now account for a third of sales. "I believe that our focus on these regions will enable us to continue to grow, even against the background of tightening budgets in Europe and the United States," said Ackerman, who will retire in April after 16 years in the post. Elbit specializes in electronics, intelligence technology such as unmanned air vehicles, command and control and training systems - specialisms that are proving attractive to some emerging economies. The company is also targeting cyber warfare as a growth area. (Reuters)


Small factories to be assured of gas supply

Small industrial plants will not be adversely affected if there are problems with the supply of natural gas from the Tethys Sea offshore field, according to the Natural Gas Authority in the Energy and Water Resources Ministry. The authority published a position paper on the matter yesterday that states that in case of a gas shortage, large gas consumers will receive gas on a pro rata basis. Since the Israel Electric Corporation is the biggest Israeli consumer of natural gas, accounting for some 60% of all Israeli usage it will be the most affected, as will private electricity producers. But smaller industrial plants will see their supplies unchanged, the authority recommended. Such industrial usage is forecast to use only about 3% of all Israeli consumption in coming years. (Itai Trilnick)


Ra’anana residential project approved

The Ra'anana local Planning and Building Committee decided this week to approve a new plan for the eastern part of the city, which will include 223 residential units on 44 dunams (11 acres ). The land is privately owned and mostly in agricultural use today. The property is bounded on the south by Ahuza Street and on the east by Route 4. The project will include various types of units from single-family homes to eight-nine-story apartment buildings. About 20 of the units will be small apartments of up to 75 square meters. The project also includes shops as well as bicycle paths and large open spaces. (Nimrod Bousso)


IDF to evacuate Tel Baruch base

The Defense Ministry said it will evacuate the Israel Defense Forces base near the Tel Baruch beach in North Tel Aviv by the end of the year. The base, known as Antenna Hill, sits on three dunams of very valuable property and is included in a development plan recently approved for the area. The site has been the center of a long legal battle in which landowners claimed the ministry appropriated their property illegally. Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court ruled in February that the IDF must evacuate the property within a year as it was private property - unless the state officially expropriated the land and paid compensation. In the end, the state decided not to expropriate the property. (Nimrod Bousso)