Business in Brief / Tel Aviv Shares, Bonds Steady, Despite Greek Turmoil

Euro survives day one of Greek crisis; Tel Aviv aspires to compete with Wall Street; Chain's Hebang agrees to acquire agrochemicals maker Stockton.

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Members of left wing parties shout slogans behind a burning EU flag during an anti-EU protest in Thessaloniki, June 28, 2015.
Members of left wing parties shout slogans behind a burning EU flag during an anti-EU protest in Thessaloniki, June 28, 2015.Credit: AP

Tel Aviv shares, bonds steady, despite Greek turmoil

Israeli markets reacted with relative calm to the turmoil in Greece on Monday, with shares and bonds on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange trading mixed. After a sharp fall on Sunday, the benchmark TA-25 index edged down 0.01% to close at 1,641.43 points, although the TA-100 was weaker, losing 0.2% to 1,412.62.  Turnover reached 1.61 billion shekels ($430 million). “We believe a solution will be found for Greece that will keep Greece in the euro zone,” said investment house Top Alpha. “Even if it doesn’t and Greece exits the euro zone, it will bring a gradual decrease in uncertainty and turn positive in the long run.” Bank shares, which were hit hard Sunday, were mixed, with Hapoalim and Israel Discount both falling 1.1% to 20.02 and 7.18 shekels, respectively. But Mizrahi Tefahot Bank added 1.5% to 46.04. Israel Chemicals was also sharply higher, rising 1.5%. In the fixed-income market, the government’s 10-year shekel bond edged 0.04% up, to lower its yield to 2.65%. Its inflation-indexed Galil bond lost 0.61% to leave its yield at 0.71%. (Omri Zerachovitz)

Euro survives day one of Greek crisis

The big euro blowout widely expected on Monday never occurred. After starting lower, the European currency steadied to end down a relatively modest 0.6%, to a Bank of Israel rate of 4.2267 shekels. The euro-shekel rate broadly followed global trends where the European currency initially fell sharply in response – to as low as $1.0956 – but recovered to $1.1112 as investors displayed a “complete lack of panic” over Europe’s single currency, as Rabobank currency strategist Jane Foley put it. Meanwhile, the dollar gained 0.2% to end at 3.8000. “Greece’s exit [from the euro zone] isn’t seen as a necessarily negative development for the euro,” said Israeli currency trader FXCM. “On the contrary, it removes the weak link in the bloc’s chain, which will contribute to the bloc’s monetary and fiscal strength.” (Omri Zerachovitz)

Tel Aviv aspires to compete with Wall Street

Turning Tel Aviv into an international financial center is one of the top goals for the Israel Securities Authority, chairman Prof. Shmuel Hauser told a press conference on Monday, marking the release of its 2015 annual report. However, Hauser said the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange had to aid new trading instruments, increase trading volumes and restructure itself as a for-profit company before Israel can attract large numbers of overseas investors. “The restructuring is aimed at making the bourse more competitive and efficient, able to engage in real competition with bourses in international markets, and act as an alternative trading platform for Israelis and the world,” he said. Hauser also called for an end to “anti-business attitudes” on the part of regulators, the public, the media and politicians. “They’ve created the feeling it’s not worthwhile doing business here,” Hauser said. (Eran Azran)

China’s Hebang agrees to acquire agrochemicals maker Stockton

China’s Sichuan Hebang said Monday it had signed an agreement to acquire 51% of the Israeli agrochemicals concern STK Stockton for $90 million, and that it aimed to list the company on the Nasdaq some time in the next two to five years. The company is the latest in a wave of Chinese acquisitions in the last few weeks, including Lumenis and Phoenix Insurance. Stockton was formed 21 years ago by Peter Tirosh after he left Makhteshim Agan, an agrochemicals maker later acquired by China National Chemical Corporation. The company began as a seller of agrochemicals, but later developed its own line of environmentally friendly products. Its flagship product, Timorex Gold, is a natural fungicide based on a plant extract. Timorex Gold is sold in 18 countries and recently got marketing approval for the United States, and is now seeking it for China. (Yoram Gabison and Reuters)