Business in Brief

Israeli, U.S. tax chiefs to tighten cooperation

Doron Arbel, director of the Israel Tax Authority, held discussions at the end of last week with Steven Miller, his U.S. counterpart at the Internal Revenue Service, about stepping up bilateral cooperation, the tax authority said yesterday. The two focused on issues of tax evasion as well as sharing data on Israeli financial institutions and Israeli citizens residing in the United States. It was the first meeting between the countries' two tax chiefs in 15 years. The pair agreed to form a team to exchange information on coping with the most sophisticated forms of tax evasion and concealing income. This is meant to complement their long-standing cooperation on sharing information on suspected tax evasion. The two also agreed that an existing double-taxation agreement needs to be updated to align with standards set by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development .(Moti Bassok )

If there aren't any last-minute problems, Shari Arison's private investment, Arison Investments, will be borrowing as much as NIS 2.7 billion via a private placement of bonds. That would make it one of the biggest private placements in recent years, including those that were used for leveraged acquisitions. The proceeds would be used to recycle some NIS 1.5 billion in bond debt issued to institutional investors, mostly in 2007, and coming due soon. It also would be used to replace some NIS 800 million in bank credit. Arison Holdings is a special-purpose company whose holdings include a controlling 20.3% stake in Bank Hapoalim, worth NIS 4.2 billion. One of the reasons Arison needs to recycle debt is that Hapoalim, like other banks, have been withholding dividends to shore up their own equity. (Michael Rochvarger )

Super-Pharm agrees to buy 51% of Beijing pharmaceutical chain

Leon Kopler's drugs and beauty chain Super-Pharm has agreed to acquire a 51% stake in a Beijing-based chain of 17 pharmacies for somewhere between $3 million and $4 million, the aim being to convert some of the branches to the Super-Pharm brand. The deal comes 15 months after the company sold its 51% stake in the 87-branch Ensure chain based in Guangzhou, in southeastern China, for NIS 30 million, four times what it paid for it in 2006, when it had three branches. It also follows Super-Pharm's successful foray into Poland in 2011, where it now operates 40 branches. The latest acquisition in Beijing is conditional on regulatory approvals. (Yoram Gabison )

Enrico Coveri, the Italian fashion chain that entered Israel with big fanfare, is pulling back a year-and-a-half later. Ten of the fashion chain's 18 outlets have already been shuttered, among them branches in Tel Aviv's Azrieli mall and the Malha Mall in Jerusalem. Tzadik-Pur Brothers, which has the franchise, ascribed the retrenchment to the high rents at malls, where landlords are asking NIS 100,000 for commercial space of 70 to 80 square meters, and said the company would focus on opening branches in downtown areas. The company said it was also difficult to command premium prices for apparel with consumers more focused on price than quality or brand. A mall executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, told TheMarker that the chain's failure was due to its inability to establish the brand in Israel. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz )

ENRC buys out Gertler stake in Congo mine

Mining company Kazakh ENRC has tightened its control over copper operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a $550 million cash deal that ends its links to Israeli businessman Dan Gertler. ENRC said on Friday it had agreed to buy the 49.5% it does not already own of holding company Camrose Resources, which controls assets including the coveted Kolwezi project and a string of exploration licenses. A spokesman for Gertler's Fleurette Group said that while the deal ended joint interests with ENRC, Gertler would continue to "explore opportunities with other leading players in the sector." Transparency campaigners including Global Witness have criticized ENRC for using partners in Congo, which they say could shelter corrupt local politicians. Gertler, an influential figure in Congo's mining sector with close links to the government, denies the accusations. (Reuters )