Business in Brief: SodaStream Advertises Carbonated-bathwater Device in April Fool's Prank

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Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream International CEO, visiting the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Dec. 11, 2014, ahead of testing Pepsi Homemade and Sierra Mist Homemade flavors in Florida. Mr. Birnbaum, smiling, is standing with crossed arms and is wearing a dark blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves.
Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream International CEO, visiting the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Dec. 11, 2014, ahead of testing Pepsi Homemade and Sierra Mist Homemade flavors in Florida.Credit: Bloomberg

Housing & Construction reports 45% drop in profit just before holiday 

Housing & Construction Limited, the building company contending with a police investigation into alleged bribes to African officials, reported fourth-quarter net profit plunged 45% from a year ago to 150 million shekels ($43 million) and saw an 85-million- shekel drop in overseas operating profits. In a report issued shortly before the Passover holiday began late on Friday, the company said it had to take another 78-million-shekel pre-tax charge against a failed industrial-waste project. Revenue was down 11% to 1.5 billion shekels, in part due to its ceasing to consolidate the results of its Cundinamarca Colombia unit. SBI, the subsidiary at the center of Housing & Construction’s legal woes, saw a 2% decline in revenues to 462 million for the quarter. The company blamed the strong shekel, which erased 42 million from SBI’s revenues. Shares of Housing & Construction, which is controlled by Carnival Cruise Lines heiress Shari Arison, ended down 3.8% to 5.55 shekels on Sunday. (Yoram Gabison)

Despite woes, Bezeq still captured three-quarters of Israeli telecom profits in 2017

Even as it contended with criminal investigations, management upheaval and reforms aimed at helping its competitors, Bezeq still accounted for the lion’s share of profit in the Israeli telecoms sector last year, an examination of industry financial reports by TheMarker shows. Bezeq net fell 0.7% to 1.235 billion shekels ($350 million), but it accounted for 72% of industry-wide profits. Hot Group accounted for another 14% and the rest was split by the mobile operators Partner Communications and Cellcom Israel. The reports showed that the much-touted reform on the broadband internet market ended up working in Bezeq’s favor rather than helping the competition: The company counted 1.63 million subscribers at the end of 2017, up from 1.42 million in 2015, just before the reforms went into effect, while revenues grew to 1.54 billion shekels from 1.45 billion. Hot added just 6,000 subscribers in 2017. Bezeq’s land-line service accounted for 41% of its revenues but 83% of its pre-tax profit. (Amitai Ziv)

Mississippi to invest up to $20 million of state funds in Israel Bonds

A new Mississippi law will allow the state treasury to invest up to $20 million in bonds issued by Israel. Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2051 on Tuesday last week authorizing Mississippi to use excess general funds to invest in Israeli bonds starting July 1. State treasury Chief of Staff Michelle Williams said the treasury invests most of its excess funds into state banks, then in the U.S. Treasury. The new law will give the treasury an investment option that Williams termed safe but with a higher rate of return. In February, Florida’s Department of Financial Services said it is increasing its investment in Israeli debt securities to “an unprecedented” $50 million for 2018 from $40 million. Ohio has the biggest holdings of any U.S. state after its Treasurer’s Office purchased $52.8 million in bonds February 15 to increase the state’s holding to $200 million. (AP and TheMarker Staff)

SodaStream advertises carbonated-bathwater device in April Fool's prank

In an April Fools parody of itself, SodaStream, the Israeli maker of carbonated-drinks machines, touted a new option called SodaSoak that lets consumers carbonate their bath. An infomercial-style video shows Shahs of Sunset reality star Reza Farahan emerging from a strawberry-filled tub in a suit and Thor Bjornsson enjoying a bubble bath. The video says SodaSoak can be “purchased” at or at 98% off. “SodaStream is always looking for disruptive ways to create moments of joy and April Fools’ Day is the perfect time to do so,” said SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. “We had tremendous fun combining forces with our valued retail partner Bed Bath & Beyond, which added realism to the prank.” BedBathandBeyond does carry SodaStream’s real product, the Sparkling Water Maker. Investors, it seems, were at least mildly amused, and SodaStream shares finished up 0.9% at 321.10 shekels on April 1. (TheMarker)

An infomercial-style video made by SodaStream for April Fool's Day

Tel Aviv shares gain in holiday-shortened trading session

Tel Aviv shares ended higher in a Passover holiday-shortened trading session after prices on Wall Street surged last Thursday. The benchmark TA-35 index added 0.3% to close at 1,440.09 points, while the TA-125 rose 0.4% to 1,316.06, on turnover of just 303 million shekels ($86.8 million). Biomed stocks were the biggest gainers, with Mazor Robotics closing 4.6% up at 107.70 shekels. Other big gainers, included Airport City, the volume leader, on a rise of 5.35% to 39.80, and Elbit Systems, which finished 2.8% up at 432.80. Banks were the only sector to end lower, although their declines were relatively small. Israel Discount Bank posted the biggest drop, which was just 0.7% to 9.99. El Al Airlines lost 2.4% to 1.14 and Rami Levy extended losses following a disappointing fourth-quarter 2017 results to fall 2.3% to 172.20. Cannabis stock rallied: Together rose 9.8% to 10.10, Medivie 14.3% to 80 and Amir Marketing 6.4% to 29.32. (Guy Erez)