Business in Brief: Noble Energy in Talks to Sell Part of Tamar Stake to Israeli Investors

Institutional investors near ceilings on bank-share holdings | ASRR sells NIS 118m in bonds to institutions | Biomed pace declines on stock exchange

Reuters

Noble Energy in talks to sell part of Tamar stake to Israeli investors

Noble Energy has begun talks with a group of Israeli institutional investors to sell part of its holding in the Tamar gas reserve as it seeks cash to cope with the fallout from plunging energy prices worldwide. Among the institutional investors looking at the stake are the insurance companies Harel, Menorah and Clal, but TheMarker has learned that Isramco, which already controls 29% of the field, may also be interested. Under the framework agreement with the government, the Texas-based company has six years to reduce its 36% stake in Tamar to 25%, but facing a cash crunch Noble has been selling off assets. In recent weeks it agreed to sell one-third of Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field to BG Group for $165 million and the tiny Israeli fields Karish and Tanin to its partner Delek Group for $67 million. The 11% Tamar stake now on the block could be worth as much as 1.65 billion shekels ($440 million). Noble shares closed up 2.4% at $31.76 on Friday in New York. (Eran Azran)

Institutional investors near ceilings on bank-share holdings

Israel’s institutional investors are approaching the regulatory ceiling for how much stock they can hold in Bank Leumi and Israel Discount Bank, figures released over the weekend by the two lenders showed. The two are the only ones of Israel’s top five banks that do not have a controlling shareholder, so institutional investors are barred from owning more than 5% of each. At Leumi, as of the end of March Migdal owned 4.69%, Meitav Dash 4.45% Harel 4.42% and Phoenix-Excellence 4.41%. At Discount, Clal Insurance held 4.92%, Meitav Dash 4.78%, Harel 4.7% and Menorah 4.61%. The ceiling restrains demand for the bank’s shares and explains why they trade so cheaply — in the case of Discount, at just 0.5% of book value. As a result, Bank of Israel Banks Supervisor Hedva Ber is weighing raising the ceiling. The issue is especially critical as large blocks of shares, in particular at Leumi, are likely to be sold, increasing the supply of stock. (Michael Rochvarger)

ASRR sells NIS 118m in bonds to institutions

ASRR, a property company operating in New York and Miami, sold 118 million shekels ($31.25 million) in bonds in Tel Aviv on Thursday to institutional investors, even as other North American property developers with debt trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange have run into severe problems. In fact, appetite for the medium-term bonds, which are unrated and pay 7%, was so strong that ASRR boosted the size of the institutional sale from the 100 million shekels originally slated. It will sell an additional 30 million shekels to the public this week. Unlike other North American property companies issuing bonds on the TASE, ASRR is an Israel-domiciled company and its equity is traded on the bourse. The bonds are collateralized by a subsidiary company developing the Surfside Miami project. In related news, Gary Barnett said he would lend his property company Extell $30 million interest-free until bank loans it has applied for are approved. (Eran Azran)

Biomed pace declines on stock exchange

Biomed shares led the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange lower yesterday in extremely light trading. The benchmark TA-25 index dropped more than 0.4% to 1,437.10 points, while the TA-100 lost 0.6% to 1,243.99. Turnover was just 276 million shekels ($73 million). Among blue-chip losers, Teva Pharmaceuticals lost 1.1% to close at 212.70 shekels, Mylan fell 3.6% to 177.10 and Perrigo 3.3% to 485.30. Tech and biomed stocks were led lower by Mannkind’s 7.9% decline to 4.85 and Perion Network’s 7% drop to 6.43. But Insuline spiked 18% higher at finish at 5.61 after it announced its product was being integrated into a product being developed by an unnamed company. The shares had already jumped 133% in the 10 preceding trading days. On Friday, the dollar weakened 0.2% to a Bank of Israel rate of 3.7860 shekels. Bank Leumi said it expected the Bank to Israel to step up foreign exchange intervention to step the shekel’s gains as short-term foreign capital floods the country. (Shelly Appelberg)