Business in Brief

Cell phone charges fell 36% in two years, ministry says

Israeli cell phone users saved an estimated NIS 1 billion from the market reform instituted under Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, the cabinet was told yesterday. The average cell phone bill dropped 36% to NIS 93 a month in 2012 from an average NIS 145 a month two years earlier, even as the average number of minutes per user increased to 426 from 247, figures provided by the ministry showed. All told, phone operator revenue from cellular services dropped during the period to an estimated NIS 10.7 billion from NIS 14.5 billion, it said. The ministry also claimed that an overhaul of the cell phone importing industry had caused prices to consumers to fall 60%."The Communications Ministry under Kahlon underwent a real revolution based on wide-ranging reforms that broke cartels and monopolies in favor of competition," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. (Amitai Ziv )

Micron's Kiryat Gat plant to begin laying off hundreds this week

Layoffs at the Micron Technology plant in Kiryat Gat are getting underway faster than previously expected. Several hundred of the plant's 1,300 personnel are due to get layoff notices this week, during a visit of the facility by Wayne Allan, the company's worldwide manager for wafer production for the U.S.-based company. Only two weeks ago, Micro Israel said no immediate firings were planned and that it was seeking a buyer for the plant, dubbed Fab 12. Failing that, the plant would be phased out by 2015. TheMarker has learned that Allan's visit was delayed by several days as Micron's management struggled to complete a worldwide plan aimed at saving jobs. Micron declined to respond to the latest reports. (Inbal Orpaz )

The jobs of more than 1,000 Maariv employees working in printing and circulation could be on the line. A day before a court-imposed deadline protecting the financially troubled publisher from creditors is due to expire, the newspaper group's new owner Shlomo Ben-Zvi has yet to reach an agreement with some 900 Maariv circulation employees, who he had promised to retain when he took control of the newspaper. Now, however, he wants to transfer distribution of the newspaper to a separate company, which would mean firing the current staff. Ben-Zvi also undertook to retain 70 to 100 printers, but now he is seeking to keep just 63 of them and has not said under what terms he would continue their contracts. (Nati Tucker )

Ovadia Brothers seeks court's protection from creditors

The Central District Court is due to hear a petition for protection from creditors today filed by Ovadia Brothers, a cleaning and maintenance company that has racked up some NIS 87 million in debts against real estate and other assets worth about NIS 26 million. The company, which employs some 2,500 people, won temporary protection after it filed an emergency petition to the court over the weekend. Two trustees, accountant Aliza Sharon and attorney Karen Reichbach-Segal of Eitan, Mehulal & Sadot were appointed to reach settlements with creditors and continue to operate the business. The closely held company was founded in 1979 and has an annual turnover of about NIS 140 million. (Yasmin Gueta and Zohar Blumenkrantz )

Netanya garbage dump to make way for homes and hotels

A huge garbage dump south of Netanya, popularly known as the Mazvala, is due to be transformed into a site for some 2,100 homes and 1,100 hotel rooms under an agreement to be signed tomorrow by the city, the Israel Lands Administration and the Finance Ministry budget division. Under the agreement, the government will cover most of the NIS 230 million cost of cleaning up the site, with Netanya covering the remaining NS 80 million. The agreement also covers two other sites - Agam 3 close to the center of the city where land for 962 homes will be sold and another 700 in the Ein Hatchelet neighborhood close to the northern beach. (Nimrod Bousso )