Business in Brief

Ofer Vaknin

Yair Biton named as suspect in B. Yair money laundering case

Yair Biton, the public face and dominant figure in the building company B. Yair, is one of the company’s executives accused by police of money laundering, it was learned Tuesday after the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court lifted a week-old gag order. The order was also lifted on Yoram Biton, the company’s deputy CEO for operations. Yair Biton’s remand was extended until tomorrow, but Yoram Biton was released to house arrest. Police allege that Jerusalem-based B. Yair, which has been traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange since 2006, laundered funds for the convicted crime boss Yitzhak Abergil. The court had earlier allowed the name of two other suspects − Shimon Balulu, CEO of Gan Raveh and Nissim Pines, who allegedly served as the manager of a B. Yair project in Eilat. Shares of B. Yair, which have tumbled close to 26% in the past week, fell 3.9% Tuesday to 20.10 shekels ($5.78) in Tel Aviv. (Raz Smolsky)

Report: Russia-China gas deal will benefit Israeli energy companies

The gas deal Russia and China reached last week is likely to benefit the companies that control the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields as the price of gas rises in the Mediterranean basin, according to Ofer Klein, chief analyst at Harel Insurance & Finances. “China is increasingly becoming a competitor for buying Russian gas and oil, which is reducing the pricing power European has vis a vis Russia and is bringing the date closer when energy prices will be higher than they are accustomed to,” Klein said. Europe will have to turn to Gulf and North African sources for more of its energy, which will be higher in cost because it will have to be liquefied first rather than piped. The downside is that Israeli consumers and businesses will have to pay more for their gas, too, he added. (Eran Azran)

Strauss profit drops as coffee sales slump

Strauss Group said on Tuesday that its first-quarter profit declined slight as global coffee sales slumped. The company reported an adjusted profit 99 million shekels ($28.5 million) for the three months, down 3.3% from 103 million shekels a year earlier. Sales fell 2% to 1.97 billion shekels. Sales at its Sabra joint venture with PepsiCo, a maker of prepared salads, grew 14%, but coffee sales dropped 12.4% in the quarter, led by a 15.4% decline in international coffee sales, which it attributed to a 20% drop in the Brazilian real’s exchange rate versus the shekel as well as to political tensions in Russia and Ukraine. Strauss is a market leader in roast and ground coffee in Central and Eastern Europe and Brazil. Shares of Strauss closed up 3.1% at 65.90 shekels ($19) in Tel Aviv. (Yoram Gabison)

Inrom IPO draws strong demand

The 350 million-shekels ($10.7 million) initial public offering in Inrom Industries met strong demand in the institutional tranche of the sale Monday. The 290 million shekels of stock in the tranche was met with orders of 400 million shekels, including orders from virtually all of Israel’s institutional investors. FIMI, the private equity fund that owns Inrom, will sell another 60 million shekels in shares directly to the public later this week in an offering that values the maker of building products at 790 million shekels, making it the biggest IPO of the year to date. Meanwhile, another PE fund, Fortissimo, opted on Monday to pull a IPO in Telrad after receiving indications from investor’s that the valuation was excessive. (Michael Rochvarger and Eran Azran)

Tel Aviv slips as world markets touch highs

Tel Aviv shares ended lower on Tuesday, as U.S. and European shares climbed to new highs. The TA-25 index edged down 0.06% to finish at 1,404.57 points, while the TA-100 fell 0.2% to 1,265.18. Turnover was a restrained 899 million shekels ($258.6 million). Spacecom, the operator of the Amos satellites, tumbled to a close of 58.94, a drop of nearly 13%, amid speculation that its controlling shareholder Eurocom would be getting a lower price for selling the company than expected. Gainers among TA-100 stocks were led by a rise of 2.6% for TowerJazz, and a 1.5% rise to 217.70 shekels for Elbit Systems. Osem advanced 1.3% to 82.06 shekels after it turned in a 5.2% year-on-year rise in first-quarter net profit to 99.5 million shekels having received a $5M order from a Tier-1 mobile operator. (Haaretz)