Business in Brief: Permira’s Bid to Sell Netafim Advances

Hapoalim launches forgiveness program | RedHill’s gastric drug succeeds in late study | TASE paces global markets upward

The Netafim drip-irrigation company, on Kibbutz Magal, in 2012.
Eyal Toueg

Permira’s bid to sell Netafim advances

Six international companies and funds have made it to the second round of bidding for buyout group Permira’s 61.3% stake in Israeli irrigation firm Netafim. The contenders are Mexican chemical firm Mexichem; U.S. industrial technologies company Fortive Corp; Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, U.S. tools maker Stanley Black & Decker; Chinese investment fund Primavera and Chinese pipe maker Ningxia Qinglong. The sale has set a minimum value of $1.5 billion for the company. All are thought to have committed to maintain the company’s three manufacturing sites in Israel for at least 10 years. Netafim is considered the world leader in drip irrigation. Kibbutz Hatzerim owns 32.7% of Netafim and Kibbutz Magal owns 6%. (Yoram Gabison and Reuters)

Hapoalim launches forgiveness program

Bank Hapoalim launched its first program to let small-time borrowers escape their debts. The program is intended to help some 14,000 borrowers against whom collection cases were launched prior to 2013. More than half are thought to owe less than 74,000 shekels ($21,000); their collective debt is estimated at 5 billion shekels. The borrowers are invited to draft an agreement to repay what they owe in up to 24 installments, and can negotiate for a discount of 50% to 90%. The move comes during the bank’s high-profile dealings with fallen tycoon Eliezer Fishman, who is personally accountable for a debt of 1.8 billion shekels to the bank. Hapoalim said the timing of its forgiveness program had no connection to the Fishman case. (Michael Rochvarger)

RedHill’s gastric drug succeeds in late study

Israel-based RedHill Biopharma Ltd said its experimental drug to treat gastroenteritis met the main goal in a late-stage study. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines that causes vomiting and diarrhea. The trial tested the efficacy and safety of the drug, Bekinda, compared with a placebo, in 321 patients with the condition. Bekinda is a once-daily oral pill formulation of the existing anti-nausea drug ondansetron and is designed to provide relief from nausea and vomiting for 24 hours. Data showed Bekinda can provide patients with 24 hours of relief and works regardless of the initial severity of gastroenteritis, the company said. (Reuters)

TASE paces global markets upward

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange finished Wednesday’s trading session with gains, as stocks gained ground around the world. The blue-chip TA-35 index gained 0.3% to close at 1,429 points, while the broader TA-125 gained 0.3% to close at 1,292 points. Bank shares gained 1%, led by Hapoalim and Leumi with gains of 1.4% and 1%, respectively. Real-estate shares gained 0.6%. Total turnover was 1.1 billion shekels. Notable shares included Sodastream, which gained 4.2% after CEO Daniel Birnbaum bought up $1 million in shares. U.S.-based property company Encore Enterprises, controlled by Dr. Bharat Sangani, raised 500 million shekels ($142 million) on the TASE, completing the institutional round of its first bond issue. The company has a relatively low credit rating of BBB+, and the bonds bear interest of up to 7.2%. Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point after the close of trading in Tel Aviv, to a target range of 1% to 1.25%. (Shelly Appelberg and Eran Azran)