Business in Brief

Cell newcomers wind down cut-rate offers

Last year’s new crop of cellular service providers are starting to take their blowout offers off the shelves. Golan Telecom is replacing its six-month introductory NIS 49-a-month plan with a less attractive “sign up a friend” deal. YouPhone is pulling its NIS 10-a-month promotion this weekend, and Partner Communications will fold the NIS 44 and NIS 59 introductory offers on its 012 Mobile discount service on April 2. Each of the three operators are said to have recruited enough, or almost enough, customers to get back their deposit money. Customers with 012 Moblle whose NIS 44 rate expired will now have to pay double. ‏(Amitai Ziv‏)
Exports rise in first two months, thanks to diamonds and drugs
Merchandise exports showed a recovery in the first two months of the year, rising 4.2% over November-December 2012, to $7.1 billion, according to an analysis by the Export Institute released yesterday. Leading the way was a 138% jump in exports of polished diamonds, to $1.7 billion, after a big drop at the end of 2012. Exports of pharmaceuticals rose 43%, to $1.1 billion, the institute said. Non-diamond exports, on the other hand, were down 1.8% in the first two months of the year versus the final two months of 2012. Chemicals saw a 6% decline, machinery and equipment exports fell 5% and metals were down 3%. ‏(Ora Coren‏)
HSBC raises Israel growth forecast l to 3.3%
Global investment bank HSBC said yesterday it was raising its growth forecast for the Israeli economy in 2013 from 2.8% to 3.3%. Stephen King, the bank’s chief economist, wrote in his quarterly global forecast that the production of national gas is slated to begin in the second quarter and can be expected to contribute one percentage point to Israel’s gross product growth for the year. Without the natural gas, growth would total just 2.6%, according to King. The government’s ability to cope with an expanding budget deficit, which reached 4.2% of GDP in 2012, is expected to be made easier now that the ultra-Orthodox parties are no longer members of the coalition. ‏(Moti Bassok‏)
MSD Capital becomes major shareholder in Rami Levy supermarket chain
Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing said yesterday that its namesake founder, Rami Levy, has sold 650,000 of his shares in the company to MSD Capital, Michael Dell’s investment company, for NIS 90 million. The founder of computer maker Dell paid 4.8% less than the stock’s opening price for the day. The deal raises MSD stake in the grocery chain to  6.1%, making it a major shareholder. “We consider MSD’s investment in our company a vote of confidence in the entire Israeli economy and the Rami Levy chain in particular,” said Levy. Shares rose 0.8%, to NIS 146.50 on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday. ‏(Yoram Gabison‏)