Business in Brief

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Transport Ministry tells importers to freeze delivery of new cars

People who purchased 2013 model cars will have to wait a while to get them, since the Transportation Ministry told importers on Wednesday to freeze deliveries. The ministry said the cars could not be handed over to buyers until the Knesset Finance Committee approved updated price brackets used to set vehicle fees. These fees are adjusted every year for inflation and should be increased by 2.7%, but the committee has failed to respond to several requests by the ministry to vote on the update. The ministry said it wants to avoid a situation wherein buyers are asked to pay additional fees later. Knesset officials blamed the ministry for delaying the request until after the Knesset's election recess. (Avi Bar-Eli and Daniel Schmil )

Two thirds of Israelis shop at mom-and-pop stores, survey finds

Higher prices and more limited selections don't deter two thirds of Israeli shoppers from patronizing small retailers, a survey conducted by Geocartography Knowledge Group for Bank Hapoalim found. The type of small business most likely to be patronized by consumers is grocery stores, with 80% of those surveyed saying they made at least some food purchases at small stores. For apparel, 45% said they shopped at smaller stores, and for footwear just 18% said they did. The percentage was lower still for products such as housewares, electronics, cosmetics and sports equipment. Small stores get more business from men than women, from younger people aged 18 to 34, and from people with university degrees, the Geocartography poll found. Still, more than half of respondents said they believed smaller shops charged higher prices than the big chains. (Oren Majar )

Polished diamond exports slid 22.8% last year

Israeli polished diamond exports slid 22.8% in 2012 but should rebound this year as long as there are no new crises around the world, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry said on Wednesday. Polished diamond exports fell to $5.56 billion from $7.2 billion in 2011. The United States remained Israel's largest market with polished diamond exports of $2 billion, followed by Hong Kong. Shmuel Mordechai, the head of the ministry's diamonds, gems and jewelry office, said the industry in 2013 would have to continue to search for sources of rough diamonds to improve Israel's competitiveness with other global diamond centers. "The crisis in the U.S. market is the most severe, and Israeli exports to this market are at the lowest in the last few years," he said. (Reuters )

Antitrust body blocked more planned mergers in 2012 than past years

The antitrust authority blocked more mergers in 2012 than in the previous year, with four out of 131 requests for approval turned down by regulators, officials said at an antitrust conference on Wednesday. Another four planned mergers were rescinded by the companies involved on the assumption that they would not be cleared by officials. Mergers blocked by authorities amounted to 3% of the total last year, compared with an average of just 0.6% annually. In 2002, 4.5% of all merger requests were rejected, according to officials. Since David Gilo, the current antitrust commissioner, took the post six years ago 17 proposed mergers have been turned down. (Ora Coren )

Exports fell 1% in 2012 after two years of fast growth

Israeli exports of goods and services fell in 2012 after double-digit growth in the two previous years, the Export Institute reported on Wednesday, citing preliminary figures. It said exports dipped 1% in dollar terms from 2011 to about $90 billion. Excluding diamond exports, merchandise exports dropped 3% to about $46 billion, it said. Exports to the United States, which account for about 23% of the total, fell about 6% to $11 billion, mainly due to lower pharmaceutical sales. Exports to the European Union were down a sharper 7% to $14.2 billion, due to a weak economy and a declining value for the euro. Exports to Asia, on the other hand, climbed 5% to $9.5 billion. Nevertheless, growth slowed from an 8.5% increase in 2011, the institute said. High-tech exports grew about 11% to $38 billion. (Ora Coren )

A diamondCredit: Bloomberg