Business in Brief

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HOT Mobile cancels cheap calling plans

Just seven months after Hot Telecommunications launched Hot Mobile, its bargain mobile calling service, the company is withdrawing two of its four customer calling packages: a plan with no fixed monthly charge the only one of its kind in the industry, and its NIS 89 a month unlimited plan. Customers already registered on these plans, however, will continue the same rates. The two remaining packages, at NIS 10 and NIS 99 fixed monthly charges, remain available. The NIS 99 plan also allows for overseas calls. Hot Mobile CEO Yaakov Nadvorani had said at the time of the launch that the NIS 89 a month plan would be around for a long time. (Amitai Ziv)

Treasury mulling tax breaks for investing in publicly traded tech firms

The Finance Ministry is looking for ways to encourage Israeli high-tech companies to list on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. One idea under consideration is providing investors in qualifying companies issuing shares in Tel Aviv with tax breaks. Technology companies would need to spend at least 75% of their research and development budget in Israel to qualify. The tax break would only apply to shares bought when they are issued on the exchange, not to shares acquired through trading. The proposal, formulated by Guy Preminger of PwC Israel, calls for recognizing such investments as expenses for tax purposes. On selling the stock, however, it would be deemed as having zero initial value, so selling at a loss would also generate a taxable capital gain. (Oren Freund)

NIS 4.7b in new mortgages granted last month

The Bank of Israel announced on Wednesday that the public took out NIS 4.7 billion in new mortgages in December. This compares with a NIS 3.8 billion monthly average for new mortgages in 2012. The average rate on new unlinked mortgage loans dropped 0.1% in December while average interest on new inflation-linked mortgages remained unchanged. The central bank also said the balance of business debt fell in November by NIS 5.2 billion to NIS 790 billion, citing a 0.5% decline in the price index and a 1.8% gain by the shekel against the dollar as the main reasons. Household debt at the end of November stood at NIS 383 billion. This included NIS 269 billion for housing, up NIS 17 billion 6.8% from the beginning of 2012. (Moti Bassok)

Wind farm planned for Golan Heights by 2015

Plans for a 120-megawatt wind farm on 403 dunams near the Valley of Tears on the Golan Heights have been submitted to the Northern District planning committee for review and approval. The project, which will include the construction of 41 wind turbines, is expected to cost about 250 million euros and is slated to begin production in 2015. Kinetic Energies, the company behind the venture, belongs to a group of Jewish investors from abroad. (Itai Trilnick)

Check Point beats earnings forecasts

Check Point Software Technologies reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on cost cutting and rising sales of security appliances that combine hardware and software. Check Point posted earnings excluding one-off items of 91 cents a share, compared with 84 cents the same time in 2011. Revenue rose 3% to $369 million. The company had been expected to earn 88 cents a share on revenue of $374 million. “The company has shown a significant deceleration in its business over the past year, and appears to be working harder to get to its numbers each quarter,” Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund said. Smaller rival Palo Alto Networks last month said its revenue for the current quarter would grow as much as 66% in the year. (Reuters)

Check PointCredit: Ofer Vaknin