Business in Brief

Ofek Aviation to offer overseas flights from Haifa

A group of investors led by businessman Roni Hahn has geared up to establish a new aviation firm, Ofek Aviation, which plans to offer discounted flights directly from Haifa to destinations in Europe and around the Mediterranean. The company is currently acquiring aircraft and is expected to begin operation next April in cooperation with an existing Israeli airline, using on-board crews of the other Israeli carrier. In addition to low fares, residents of the north are expected to be attracted to the option of not having to travel Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for their overseas travels. The Haifa airfield was transferred to civilian control last summer. Hahn was one of the founders of the first charter airline in the country, Maof, which halted operations in the 1980s. He was later involved in casino operations in the Palestinian West Bank town of Jericho, and more recently has been engaged in the real estate business. (Zohar Blumenkrantz )


HSBC projects greenback slumping to NIS 3.55 at the end of 2013

The dollar will slump to NIS 3.75 by the end of this year and sink below NIS 3.55 during the fourth quarter of 2013, economists at HSBC have predicted in a macroeconomic survey on Israel. As of Friday, the representative rate of the dollar was NIS 3.87. The shekel has been weaker than many developing world currencies since the beginning of 2011, and analysts at HSBC attribute this to the effects of instability in the Middle East following the outbreak of "Arab spring" that deterred some foreign investors from investing funds into businesses in Israel. HSBC also noted the increasing exposure in Israel to investment in assets abroad. Although the Bank of Israel has projected a current account deficit of 0.8% of Israel's gross domestic product this year, HSBC expressed the view that the deficit would reach 1.2%, but next year would bring a 0.5% surplus. (Shelly Appelberg )