Business in Brief

Saban shows interest in Partner

Has Ilan Ben-Dov found a white knight to bail him out of his problems at cellular operator Partner? Businessman Haim Saban, who was previously a major figure in the Israeli telecom industry as a controlling shareholder of Bezeq, has been conducting preliminary contacts this week with Ben-Dov to examine the possibility of buying Partner. Partner's former owner Hutchison pulled out of a complicated deal to buy control of Partner a few weeks ago, leaving Ben-Dov with no way to pay off the huge debts he took on to buy the company. Ben-Dov has also approached others in an attempt to interest them in investing in Partner, including Yishai Davidi's First Israel Mezzanine Fund, but it is not clear if Davidi is interested. Ben-Dov is also continuing to prepare a lawsuit against Hutchison over its withdrawal from the deal. (Michael Rochvarger )

Water prices to climb next year

Water prices will climb on January 1, 2013 by between 6% to 8%. This is just another in a long line of major price increases for consumers, and can partially be blamed on the higher costs of other goods and services. The first reason for the hike is the huge jump in electricity prices over the past year. The other major reason is the increased use of desalinated water, which is bought from the private companies that operate Israel's desalination plants. The actual amount of the price hike is still unclear, as the Water Authority will only officially begin its meetings on the level of the hike in the next few days. The price of treated water used for crop irrigation is also expected to jump, as the state now subsidizes such water to the tune on NIS 80 million a year. Water prices last rose at the end of July, by 1.7%, based on the regular twice-a-year adjustment for inflation. (Avi Bar-Eli )

Lufthansa strike cancels Tel Aviv flights

Lufthansa canceled some 190 flights yesterday, including both its flights to Israel, after cabin crews went on strike. The two daily flights to Frankfurt are also expected to be canceled today, and the 450 passengers will have to make other arrangements. Yesterday was the second day the flights were affected. Lufthansa's spokesman in Israel said all the passengers were transferred to flights on other airlines or to today's flights. He called on passengers to check the airline's website for current information on cancelations. (Zohar Blumenkrantz )

Large apple harvest to sweeten the new year, as prices drop due to the cold winter

A cold winter did wonders for this year's apple harvest which, at 125,000 tons, is exceptionally large - 25% more than the 2011 season. For consumers, the good news is the drop in prices of this staple of the upcoming Rosh Hashanah holiday. Israelis eat some 125 kilograms of the fruit in all forms every year. The average harvest has been 115,000 tons in recent years. Apple orchards, which require cold winters, are located at high elevations in Israel (over 600 meters above sea level ), primarily in the Galilee and Golan, and in the hills around Jerusalem and in Samaria. A 125,000-ton harvest may be substantial in local terms, but by comparison, China, the world's largest apple producer, is responsible for half the global harvest of 55 million tons a year. (Amiram Cohen )