Business in Brief

Brightsource group wins solar power tender

After a five-year process, the Magalim Solar Power consortium, which includes Israel's Brightsource Energy and France's Alstom SA, won a tender to design, finance, build and operate a power station at Ashelim, the finance and energy and water sources ministries announced yesterday. The group will build a 121-megawatt plant using Brightsource's proprietary technology that uses mirrors and magnifying glasses to concentrate solar rays to power turbines. It will be one of two stations that will operate at Ashelim, the site of Israel's biggest solar-power project. The consortium is committed to completing the project within three years and can operate it for 28 years under the terms of its build-operate-transfer tender. The government will pay Brightsource 79 agorot a kilowatt hour, which is 55% higher than what it pays for solar power generated by conventional photovoltaic technology. (Itai Trilnick )

Casponet to end ceiling on ATM withdrawals

Casponet, a unit of Verifone that leases automated teller machines, or ATMs, to retailers and other businesses has removed its recommendation that they limit customer cash withdrawals to a maximum of NIS 400 to NIS 500. The change, which affects about 1,200 machines across the country representing some 4% of all ATM withdrawals, came after it received a complaint from attorney Elad Man, who works for a legal aid clinic at the Ono Academic College. The ceiling had been recommended as a way of preventing the machines from being emptied out too quickly by a few large withdrawals. But Man said in a complaint to antitrust authorities that it forced customers who wanted larger sums to make several withdrawals, paying a fee each time they did it, an extra cost that violated consumer consumer protection legislation. (Sivan Aizescu )

Bank of Israel to scrap some bank fees for small businesses

David Zaken, the Bank of Israel's banks supervisor, is expected to publish in the next few days amended rules on bank fees that will eliminate management charges to small businesses. That fee ranges from NIS 56 at Bank Hapoalim to NIS 140 at Mercantile Bank. The savings for small business will amount to as much as NIS 1, 680 a year, according to the Bank of Israel. It is one of a series of changes aimed at encouraging more banking competition by equalizing charges for small business with those of consumer accounts. The competition panel, which was headed by Zaken, recommended that the definition of small businesses be widened to include those with no more than NIS 5 million in bank debt. Previously it had been businesses with turnover of no more than NIS 1 million. (Sivan Aizescu )

Despite an announcement by Hamashbir Lezarchan 365 that it had signed an agreement selling its Office Depot unit to an investor group, the transaction is not yet complete and the financially troubled chain remains subject to protection from creditor, TheMarker has learned. The investor group, which declines at this stage to be identified, is still seeking to reschedule debt payments with Office Depot's supplier's to reduce repayments. They are also seeking to get the chain's rent lowered or reduce the amount of floor space being rented at money-losing branches. If they do not succeed, the sale will be cancelled, sources close to the deal said yesterday. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz and Dror Reich )

Job openings fell in October from September

The number of job openings in the business sector declined in October from September by 4.6% to 67,800, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Thursday. Compared with the number of available jobs, both filled and vacant, the percentage of job openings declined from 3.2% in September to 3.1% in October. The greatest decline in openings occurred in retailing, by 3,100 from September. In education, 1,900 more positions were available in October than in September. For engineers, there has been a steady decline in the number of openings since August, reaching 3,520 in October. For computer specialists, however, the number of openings has been steady at about 1,850. (Moti Bassok )