Business in Brief

ATP says it found natural gas off Israel's coast

Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas Corporation said yesterday it discovered natural gas at one of its wells off the coast of Israel. The Shimshon well encountered more than 19 meters of natural gas pay in the Bet Guvrin sands, the company said. The discovery comes a month after the company said CEO Matt McCarroll resigned in less than a week into his job due to disagreement over his employment contract. ATP, with a 40% working interest in the well, started drilling in late April. Estimates by Lockwood & Associates, an independent reservoir engineering evaluation firm, suggest that Shimshon has about 65 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves. The company, however, said it would provide additional information about the discovery during the third quarter of 2012. Shares of ATP Oil & Gas were up some 19%, or 64 cents, to $4 on the Nasdaq at 12:40 P.M. New York time yesterday. ATP had lost 80% of its market value over the past year. (Reuters )

Rami Levi offers unlimited call plan for NIS 88 a month

Rami Levi is fighting back in the newly competitive cellular market and will be offering unlimited calling plans for only NIS 88 a month. After weeks of intense negotiations with Partner, in a surprise reversal yesterday morning Levi announced he would be keeping his virtual cell phone network on Pelephone's infrastructure. He signed an improved contract yesterday with Pelephone, which will allow him to cut prices and offer the new unlimited plans. Members of the Rami Levi supermarket customers club may be offered further discounts, though Levi's plan is now the cheapest offered to the general public. Levi has some 50,000 customers and is the largest virtual cellular operator in Israel. Pelephone will take about NIS 70 to NIS 75 of the sum. About NIS 10 will be needed to cover Levi's costs for running his network, and the company should be making about NIS 3 in net profit per customer per month. (Amitai Ziv )

Sakal looks to sell all or part of Payless footwear franchise

Just over a year since the bargain shoe chain Payless Shoes arrived in Israel, the local franchisee, the Sakal group, is looking to sell the business - or at least bring in an investor as a partner. The Sakal brothers, Solly and Meir, opened the first Payless store in April 2011 in a Petah Tikva mall and talked of plans to open 50 branches within five years and with 10% of the Israeli shoe market. There are now 11 branches. While industry sources say the franchise is up for sale, and a few even say they have received offers, Sakal has a different story. "The Payless chain is operating according to its business plan," the group said. Sakal said it will open four more stores by the end of the year, though it has examined the possibility of taking in an outside investor. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz )

Assaf Lev