Business in Brief: Protalix Shares Plunge on Disappointing Trial Results for Cystic Fibrosis Treatment

Ability shares fall after directors resign; Kenon, Chery to help finance factory for joint venture; Dash tells XIO it must seek approvals in acquisition deal; shares end lower in holiday trading

Stock prices flash on an electronic screen displaying world clocks at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014.
Bloomberg

Protalix shares plunge on disappointing trial results for cystic fibrosis treatment

Protalix shares fell sharply on Wall Street Wednesday after the Israeli drug developer reported disappointing results from a phase two trial of alidornase alfa to treat a symptom of cystic fibrosis. The 16 patients enrolled in the study improved their lung function by 3.4 points from baseline after 28 days on the drug, but that was lower than an average score of 4.1 points during an interim phase of the study. The patients had been previously treated with Pulmozyme, a drug already on the market to treat symptoms of CF. Before they began the Protalix trial they stopped taking Pulmozyme to establish a clear baseline. But when lung function was tested against their score when they were taking Pulmozyme the increase was just 2.8 points, lower than any of the other results. Alidornase alfa is an inhaled medicine designed to help CF patients clear mucus from their lungs. Protalix headlined the results as “positive,” but investors didn’t see it that way and the shares were down 15.3% to $1.11 at midday local time in New York. (Yoram Gabison)

Ability shares fall by nearly one-third after five directors resign

Shares of Ability, a maker of cellular and satellite-communications interception technology, plunged Wednesday after five directors quit. The company said on Monday that former Bezeq CEO Amnon Dick, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, former Military Intelligence head Amos Malka, Meir Moshe and Shalom Singer had tendered their resignations, effective immediately in connection to their demand that controlling shareholders inject more capital into the business. CEO Anatoly Hurgin, who co-founded the company with Alexander Aurovsky, said in a statement that they were cutting their salaries by 50% and would be taking other cost-cutting measures, but added that he believed the $8 million in cash the company has now would suffice. “We will continue to evaluate the company’s financial position to determine whether additional funding sources, including through contribution by Alexander and me, are necessary,” Hurgin added. Ability shares ended down 31% at 4.52 shekels ($1.24). (Omri Zerachovitz)

Kenon, Chery to help finance $800 million factory for Qoros joint venture

Qoros, together with its parent company Chery and Israel’s Kenon Holdings, will spend 5.5 billion yuan ($797.4 million) to build a manufacturing facility in Yibin city, China Daily reported this week. Citing an agreement signed with local authorities on April 6, the newspaper said the new facility would be capable of producing 500,000 cars annually, including 200,000 of the new energy vehicles Qoros is developing and is betting will rescue it from its financial woes. China Daily said no details about how much each party would contribute or when construction would begin were known. Qoros has a plant in Changshu, Jiangsu province, with an annual production capacity of 150,000 cars, but last year it sold only 24,188 vehicles.  The newspaper said that while some analysts say the move would not help the carmaker in the short term, it does show that Qoros’ backers are confident in the brand’s future performance. Kenon shares ended down 2% at 42.70 shekels ($11.67). (Yoram Gabison)

Meitav Dash tells XIO it has two weeks to seek approvals in acquisition deal

Meitav Dash said on Wednesday it was extending by two weeks the deadline for Chinese-European investment fund XIO to apply for regulatory approvals needed to acquire the company or it may find itself in breach of the agreement. Meitav Dash, Israel’s second-biggest investment house, agreed in November to be acquired by XIO for 1.5 billion shekels ($410 million), but the deadline to seek approvals from Israel’s Capital Markets Authority had passed. Meitav Dash said XIO had agreed to the two-week extension and added that if it wasn’t met it would seek to declare the fund in violation of the agreement within 20 business days. Meitav Dash noted that it was by no means certain that the deal will be approved even if XIO meets the new deadline. The agreement has been clouded by claims, leveled by Chinese billionaire Xie Zhikun last month, that XIO had accepted a nearly $1 billion investment from him without acknowledging it. Meitav Dash shares ended down 5.9% at 15.05 shekels. (Assa Sasson)

Shares end lower in holiday trading session

Tel Aviv shares ended slightly lower in light holiday-week trading Wednesday, with telecoms shares weighing on the market. The blue-chip TA-35 index ended down 0.1% to 1,394.12 points, while the TA-125 ended 0.03% lower to 1,258.56. With the market closing at 2:30 P.M. local time for the intermediate days of Passover, turnover was just 957 million shekels ($262 million). Telco shares were down sharply, with Electra Consumer Products, the new owner of Golan Telecom, closing 5.6% down at 73.08. Cellcom Israel shed 4.4% to 35.91, Partner Communications 3.3% to 19.04 and Bezeq 1.3% to 6.25. Mylan dropped 4.1% to close at 139.30, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration raised concern about quality control at the company’s factory in India. But bank stocks rallied, led by a gain of 3.8% to 16.25 for Leumi and a 2% gain to 21.60 for Hapoalim. Mazor Robotics jumped 6.1% to 54.28 after it received FDA clearance for its Mazor X Align software. (Uri Tomer)