Business in Brief

Itzik Ben Malki

Bezeq net falls as telephony revenue slumps

Bezeq said on Thursday it earned 457 million shekels ($131 million) in the first quarter of 2014, down from 497 million shekels a year earlier but above a Reuters poll forecast of 441.7 million shekels. Revenue fell 3.9% to 2.311 billion shekels, in line with expectations. Revenue from telephony services dropped 16.5%, Internet revenue gained 7.1%. The drop in net income was largely due to a 29% fall in profit at Pelephone. Profit at Bezeq’s landline division slipped 4.%. Bezeq said streamlining and cutting expenses helped to maintain profitability levels despite growing competition and amid a government-mandated decrease in fixed call termination rates. Shares of Bezeq dropped 1.9% to close at 6.23 shekels ($1.94) in Tel Aviv. (Reuters)

Kibbutz Sdot Yam selling 5.5 million Caesarstone shares

Kibbutz Sdot-Yam is selling 5.5 million ordinary shares in Caesarstone, the maker of engineered quartz surfaces it founded, the company said on Wednesday. The shares, the sale of which will be conducted through a public offering, are worth about $265 million at Caesarstone’s current price and will reduce the kibbutz’s stake in the company to 35.5% from 55%. Underwriters led by J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Barclays Capital will be granted a 30-day option to purchase up to 825,000 additional ordinary shares from the selling shareholder. Caesarstone said it would not receive any proceeds from the offering. Shares of Caesarstone, which rose nearly 60% in the past year, were down 2.5% to $46.22 in New York in early trading. (TheMarker Staff)

Rami Levy boosts sales in difficult market

Rami Levy overcame a fall in consumer spending and a late Passover holiday this year to raise revenues 7.7% from a year ago to 812.8 million shekels ($234 million), the supermarket chain said Thursday. Same-store sales were up 3.3%. Neverthless, operating profit fell 6.7% to 32 million shekels due to higher selling and marketing costs as well as the sale of real estate in 2013 that raised the year-earlier figure. “Preparation for the Passover holiday at stores occurred in March this year while the holiday sales were in April,” Levy explained. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell to 38.7 million shekels from 40.3 million shekels a year ago. Shares of Rami Levy fell 3.2% to 168.10 shekels in Tel Aviv. (Eran Azran and Shelly Appelberg)

Ashtrom completes 280-million-shekel IPO

Ashtrom completed its initial public offering on Wednesday after the property company and its underwriters to win over investors. The company sold about 280 million shekels ($80.6 million) in shares, giving the public a 20% stake and, with post-money valuation of 1.5 billion shekels, winning it a place in the TA-100 index. But underwriters put in as much as 60 million shekels in orders while the company lowered in valuation to 1 billion shekels from as much as 1.4 billion shekels. In addition, Ashtrom sold 1.2 billion shekels in bonds rated A by S&P Maalot in two series, one paying 5.4% and due over 2016-2025 and a second due in 2017-2025 paying 2.4%. (Michael Rochvarger)

Markets ends higher for week despite Thursday decline

Tel Aviv shares ended lower Thursday but still gained for the week as many global markets touched record highs. The benchmark TA-25 index closed down 0.3% at 1,393.42 points, as 1.82 billion shekels ($520 million) in shares changed hands, leaving it up 0.3% for the week. The May options on the TA-25 were fixed in the morning at 1,395.85 points. The TA-100 ended down 0.4% at 1,256.99 but up 0.5% for the week. Among the biggest losers, Clal Biotechnology dropped 5.5% to 8.54 shekels and Gilat Satellite 5% to 16.74. Teva Pharmaceuticals, the volume leader, closed 2.5% down at 174.10 shekels. In the fixed income markets, the government’s 10-year shekel bond rose 0.28% to reduce its yields to 2.91% while its inflation-indexed bond due in 2023 rose 0.23% to trim the yield to 0.79%. (Eran Azran)