Business in Brief: IBM Seeking 186 Million Shekels From Israel Chemicals in Counter-suit

Ayalon asks retired judge to examine sexual harassment claims ■ Reports of U.S.-China trade deal lift shares ■ Energean begins drilling in Karish North prospect

The IBM logo is displayed at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 26, 2019.
\ SERGIO PEREZ/ REUTERS

Energean begins drilling in Karish North prospect

The Greek company Energean said Monday it had begun drilling for natural gas at the Karish North prospect 90 kilometers offshore Israel. The drilling is aimed at verifying reserves estimated at up to 36 billion cubic meters, on top of the 67 BCM already confirmed. Verification of the additional gas could enable the company to sign up more customers for Karish gas and to delay development of the second prospect to which it has rights, called Tanin. Energean plans to produce its first gas from Karish in 2021 and has signed contracts to sell it to Israeli customers. The company said its program calls for drilling three development wells at the site and that intends to batch-drill the top-hole sections of the wells, to allow for operational efficiency and cost savings. Energean said it had another six drilling options available in its contract with drilling services firm Stena Drilling. Energean shares closed up 5.1% at 34.55 shekels ($9.53). (Eran Azran)

IBM seeking 186 million shekels from Israel Chemicals in counter-suit 

In December, Israel Chemicals sued IBM for 1.1 billion shekels ($280 million) for damages it says it suffered from a failed computer integration project. Now IBM is countersuing for 186 million shekels. In a suit filed Monday, the U.S. company offered in its defense statements made by ICL executives at the time the project was under way that characterized it as advancing successfully. IBM claimed it was only canceled after ICL CEO Stefan Borgas left the company in September 2016 and that ICL was suing in order to avoid paying 180 million shekels due the U.S. company. ICL’s original lawsuit claims IBM failed at each step of the way to build an enterprise resource planning system to replace multiple systems in use by the company. It alleges that IBM systematically hid problems, delayed implementing changes sought by ICL management and needlessly added to the project’s cost. ICL shares ended up 0.8% at 20.37 shekels. (Yoram Gabison)

Ayalon asks retired judge to examine sexual harassment claims

Ayalon, the insurance company wracked by a boardroom power struggle, said Monday it had asked Orli Sela, a retired Be’er Sheva District Court judge, to examine accusations of sexual harassment by the company’s controlling shareholder and founder. The move, which was made at the behest of the Capital Markets Commission — and not the Israel Securities Authority, as is usually the case with such allegations —  comes after a female director claimed Levy Rachmani had harassed when he was the CEO and on the insurer’s board. Rachmani, 87, was forced out of his last official role as a director at Ayalon last year amid a boardroom dispute with Chairman Shlomo Grofman. Last week the board asserted in a letter to the Capital Markets Commission that Rachmani continued to interfere in Ayalon management and threatened to step down if Rachmani tried to oust Grofman. Ayalon shares finished ahead 0.3% at 24.39 shekels ($6.73). (Assa Sasson)

Reports of U.S.-China trade deal lift shares

Tel Aviv shares ended higher as world stock markets rose in response to reports that the United States and China were about to sign a trade pact. The benchmark TA-35 index rose 0.35% to finish at 1,583.92 points, while the TA-125 added 0.4% to 1,444.56, on turnover of 1.29 billion shekels ($360 million). Among blue chips, Elbit Systems rose 1.2% to 483 shekels. Foresight climbed 7.6% to 1.41 after the maker of self-driving auto technology announced an additional sale of a prototype of its flagship product QuadSight.Other gainers included Delta Galil, up 2.5% to 117.70, and insurer Phoenix, also up 2.5%, to 21.51.  Magic Software lost 1.2% to 32.50 despite reporting a 1 cent rise in adjusted fourth-quarter earnings to 12 cents a share. Melisron fell 1.55% to 171.30 after Leora Ofer sold 150 million shekels of shares in the mall developer at a 3% discount to the market price. Her stake is now down to 58%. (Eran Azran)