Business in Brief: Bezeq to Petition Court on Merging Units

Plantext to be first Israeli cannabis company to be traded overseas ■ Stanley Fischer hired to advise BlackRock ■ Wall Street weighs down Tel Aviv shares

File photo: The logo of Israel telecommunication giant Bezeq, is seen outside their Tel Aviv headquarters.
\ Amir Cohen/ REUTERS

Bezeq said Thursday it would ask the High Court of Justice to overrule the Communications Ministry and allow it to merge its business units into a single company immediately. Bezeq said its board had approved the suit on the grounds that the company had met all of the conditions for ending structural separation set in a 2012 agreement with regulators opening its infrastructure to competitors. Israel’s largest telecoms group has long sought to merge its core landline business with its mobile, satellite television and internet units to save costs and enable it to offer bundled service plans to customers. The move would also unlock 1.2 billion shekels ($330 million) in tax losses amassed by its Yes satellite TV unit. The ministry has refused out of fear that Bezeq might use its market dominance to deter competition. Bezeq shares ended down 0.5% at 3.17 shekels. (Nati Tucker)

Plantext to be first Israeli cannabis company to be traded overseas

Plantext is on its way to becoming the first Israeli medical marijuana company to trade overseas, its CEO Doug Sommerville said this week. Rather than conduct an initial public offering, the Israeli-Canadian startup reached an agreement three weeks ago to merge with the BB1 Acquisition Corporation, a shell company listed on Toronto’s TSX Venture Exchange. Plantext, which is developing and commercializing marijuana formulations to treat inflammation-related conditions, has a licensing agreement with the Israeli government’s Volcani Agricultural Research Institute. It is preparing to launch its first product, for inflammatory bowel disease, in Israel in the current quarter and later in Canada. The company was founded in 2014 by Oded Sagee, a former Volcani researcher. Sommerville was president of Teva Pharmaceuticals Canadian unit from 2008-14. Plantext has raised $4.5 million to date at a $26 million valuation and is in the process of raising $5 million more. (Guy Erez)

Stanley Fischer hired to advise BlackRock

Stanley Fischer, a former Bank of Israel governor and U.S. Federal Reserve vice chairman, has been hired by BlackRock as a senior adviser, the U.S. private equity fund said Wednesday. BlackRock, which manages about $6 trillion in assets, said Fischer would be a senior adviser in the BlackRock Investment Institute, an arm of the company that serves as a think tank on investment strategy, according to a memo co-signed by CEO Larry Fink and confirmed by a company spokeswoman. The memo said Fischer will add to the company’s research, support its investment teams and speak with clients on markets, economics and central bank policy. Fischer served as Bank of Israel governor from 2005-13 before joining the Fed, where he was vice chairman until October 2017. Over his career he helped to shape modern economic theory as an academic and was at the center of the response to the 2008 global financial crisis. (Reuters)

Wall Street weighs down Tel Aviv shares

After resisting for many years, Leon Koffler, founder and controlling shareholder of Super Pharm, has given the nod for Israel’s biggest pharmacy chain to go public. Super Pharm’s board will meet by the end of this week to approve an initial public offering valuing the company at 1.7 billion shekels ($470 million). Part of the proceeds will go into the company, but Bank Leumi and Israel Discount Bank are expected to sell their stakes of 15% and 10%, respectively, in the IPO. It’s not clear yet whether Koffler will sell any of his shares. Super Pharm is estimated to have had 2018 sales of 5 billion shekels and another 760 million from its Polish unit. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are believed to have been 250 million shekels. A plan to sell the European fund CVC up to 40% of the retailer in 2017 collapsed in a dispute over control issues. (Michael Rochvarger and Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

Tel Aviv shares end higher, despite Teva Pharmaceuticals selloff

A lower Wall Street took the wind out of an incipient recovery on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Thursday. The TA-35 and TA-125 indexes each ended down 0.13% at 1,556.65 and 1,418.98 points, respectively, on turnover of 1.21 billion shekels ($330 million). Teva Pharmaceuticals, whose share price plummeted on poor 2019 outlook Wednesday, gained 0.3% to end at 64.42 shekels. Nice rose 3.2% to 425.50 after its fourth-quarter adjusted earnings came in at $1.47 a share, 6 cents above average forecasts. Camtek extended gains from a strong quarterly report, adding 6.5% to 32.77. Bank Leumi ended down 1.2%. Cannabis shares continued their sell-off, with Herodium tumbling 20.6% to 8.05, Together losing 10.7% to 6.21 and Whitesmoke dropping 12.8% to 1.68. In foreign currency trading, the dollar strengthened almost 0.7% to a representative rate of 3.6620 shekels. (Jenya Volinsky)