Business in Brief

Hapoalim asking Bank of Israel for permission to double its dividend payout rate, to 30% of net profits.

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A branch of Bank Hapoalim.
A branch of Bank Hapoalim. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Hapoalim asking to double dividend payout rate
Bank Hapoalim is reportedly asking the Bank of Israel for permission to double its dividend rate, to 30% of net profits. The bank, Israel’s largest, prepared a study showing it can cover the cost of the bigger payout while retaining enough earnings to meet the central bank’s minimum capital adequacy ratio of 10% of equity by the start of 2017. The Bank of Israel overruled a Hapoalim board decision last year to approve plans for a 30% dividend, and the bank has been paying a 15% rate, a total 382 million shekels ($111 million), over the last four quarters. Since then, Hapoalim, which declined to comment on the report, has exceeded the interim target of 9% for this year’s first quarter, showing a 10.7% return on equity, or a 753 million shekel net profit. Shares of Hapoalim fell 1.4% Monday, to 20.20 shekels in Tel Aviv. (Sivan Aizescu)

Ben-Dov ousted as Scailex chairman
Ilan Ben-Dov was ousted Monday as chairman of Scailex, which imports Samsung cellphones in Israel and once sat at the apex of his communications group, over what it said was “differences of opinion” with the board. Although Ben-Dov remains a director, the move marks another step in his loss of control over the company, which announced Monday it was examining problems with batteries of the Galaxy S4 phone. Media reports indicated that thousands of the batteries had a problem with swelling, and that at least 20 have burst into flames. Two outside directors, Yonah Admon and Dror Barzilai, tendered their resignations and two others, Shalom Singer and Arie Ovadia, said they would not seek reelection when their terms expire July 31. Ben-Dov’s ouster came just three days after Yaakov Luxembourg, a major holder of unsecured bonds in the company, joined the board to protect the interest of creditors. Scailex shares dropped 3.1%, to 7 agrorot (2 cents), in Tel Aviv on Monday. (Shelly Appelberg and Michael Rochvarger)

ICL, Canadian partner advance Ethiopia potash plans
Israel Chemicals and its Canadian partner, Allana Potash, advanced an important step Monday toward developing a joint venture potash mine in Ethiopia. The country’s Water Ministry approved the venture’s use of 30 million cubic meters of water annually, much more than the 18.5 million it expects to need in the first phase, thus ensuring its water needs will be met as it expands in coming years. In addition, the companies won approval from residents of two villages that will be moved for the mine to be developed. ICL took a 16% stake in Allana in February, with an option to increase it to 37%. The $640 million mine will produce 1 million tons of phosphate annually. ICL ended almost unchanged in Tel Aviv at 29.66 shekels ($8.61). (TheMarker Staff)

TASE posted 45.5 million shekel loss in 2013
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange said Monday it posted a 45.5 million shekel ($13 million) loss last year, reversing a 25.8 million shekel profit in 2012. Most of the law was attributable to a 92.5 million shekel write-down on the value of its new Ahuzat Bayit Street headquarters, to which it is moving shortly. The big drop in valuation, it said, was due to the seven-year construction time and the special design requirements needed. Although revenues from services rose 4%, to 239 million shekels, expenses for the year jumped 50% from 2012, to 315 million shekels, the TASE said. During the year, 38 companies delisted, leaving only 508 trading, it said. (Shelly Appelberg)

Tel Aviv shares end lower despite telecoms rally
Communications shares rallied Monday, but their gains were not enough to fend off a broad decline on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange after the Bank of Israel said it would hold interest rates unchanged for July. The TA-25 and TA-100 indices both finished down 0.1%, at 1,404.70 and 1,265.88 points, respectively, on turnover of 722.9 million shekels ($210 million). Bank and property stocks paced the decline, while the rise in telecoms shares was led by B Communications, the holding company that controls Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq. B Communications ended 2.5% higher, to close at 66.87 shekels. Bezeq advanced 1%, to 6.43 shekels; Cellcom Israel added 1.7%, to close at 44.97, and Partner Communications ended 1.6% up, at 28.51. In the foreign currency market, the dollar strengthened 0.3%, to a Bank of Israel rate of 3.4530, while the euro gained 0.16%, to 4.6934. (Shelly Appelberg)

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