Business in Brief: Azrieli Profit Rose Sharply in First Quarter

Discount Bank mulling layoffs after Leumi | Playtech buying video slot game maker | European, U.S. stocks propel Tel Aviv gains

Bloomberg

Azrieli profit rose sharply in first quarter

Israeli property developer Azrieli Group yesterday reported a sharp rise in net profit for the first quarter, boosted by the revaluation of investment properties and a decrease in the tax rate. Azrieli, which built Tel Aviv’s Azrieli office and shopping complex, earned 672 million shekels ($174.5 million) in the first quarter, compared to 188 million shekels a year earlier. Excluding the valuation profits and the tax rate decrease, net profit totaled 244 million shekels. Net operating income, which reflects the group’s core business, rose 7%, to 319 million shekels, mainly due to a new mall in Israel, high occupancy rates and higher rents in Israeli office buildings. In the United States its NOI fell 23% due to a key tenant leaving a property in Houston. Some of the vacated space was leased to Citibank for significantly higher rent and this will contribute to NOI later in the year, it said. Azrieli shares ended 2.3% higher at 165.70 shekels. (Reuters)

Discount Bank mulling layoffs after Leumi

Industry sources said on Wednesday that Israel Discount Bank, the country’s No. 3 lender,  would be the next bank to impose staff cutbacks after news surfaced this week that Bank Leumi planned massive layoffs.  Discount will probably present a plan to the Bank of Israel to ax hundreds of personnel sometime in the next few months. Cutting labor costs is critical for Discount, whose ratio of costs to operating income is among the highest in the sector at 77.1%.Nearly two years ago, Discount began laying off 1,000 employees through a voluntary retirement plan and has met 60% of the target to date. Discount shares ended 0.7% up at 6.36 shekels ($1.65). (Michael Rochvarger)

Playtech buying video slot game maker

Playtech, the gambling software development company controlled by Israeli Teddy Sagi, said on Tuesday it was buying Quickspin AB, a Swedish developer of video slot games. Playtech will pay as much as six times Quickspin’s EBITDA in 2018 or up to  50 million euros ($55.8 million). Quickspin has about 20 products used for online money gambling as well as social gaming and has around 40 customers that include leading online gaming companies. Playtech seeks to build up its core gaming division after the failed attempts to take over AvaTrade and Plus500, two online trading companies, but a bid earlier this year for rival gambling technology provider Open Bet also failed. Shares of Playtech  rose 1.1% to 851 pence in London. (Omri Zerachovitz)

European, U.S. stocks propel Tel Aviv gains

Tel Aviv shares marked another day of gain in brisk trading, as stocks in Europe and the United States rallied. The benchmark TA-25 index climbed almost 0.9% to 1,440.69 points, while the TA-100 added nearly 1% to 1,249.80, as 1.5 billion shekels ($390 million) in shares changed hands. Energy shares paced rises, with Avner up 4.67% to 2.48 shekels, Ratio ahead 4.8% to 29 agorot and Delek Drilling up 3.7% to 13.37. Bank Leumi was up 1% to 13.75 after news it planned cost-cutting layoffs. Mazor Robotics led TA-100 shares higher on a 9.3% gain to 32.16 as it continued to enjoy momentum from a strategic accord with Medtronic announced last week. Insurance stocks again ran against trend, however, with IDI closing down 1.7% at 184.30 in heavy trading.2.93%. (Omri Zerachovitz)