Daily Roundup / Citi Downgrades Israeli Banks' Outlook

Hapoalim spared the analyst's wrath; strapped Petrochemicals in talks to sell Avgol stake.

Citi clammy on Israeli banks: Impelled by the slowing Israeli economy, the great Citi has lowered its outlook for Israel's banks and downgraded its recommendations and the banks' price targets too‎. Equity analyst Michael Klahr downgraded Leumi and Discount from Buy to Neutral, though Hapoalim was spared his wrath and kept its Buy rating, because of its relative profitability compared with its brother banks. Klahr is worried by the combo of shrinking tax revenues (which are short of forecasts) with contracting private consumption: Not only is the housing market slowing, but so are sales of cars and food. In short, the banks' situation will get worse before it gets better, Klahr postulates.

Hapoalim closing Singapore branch: Citi may like Hapoalim the best but Singaporeans will be losing their chance to revel in the bank's charms. Hapoalim reportedly advised its employees there that it's closing the branch in a matter of months. In fact Hapoalim Singapore was a branch of Hapoalim Switzerland. The branch was opened in 2007 pursuant to Hapoalim's global ambitions, which have since been scaled back. Hapoalim doesn't isolate its Singaporean profits in its statements, but says the move is an efficiency measure.

Nix Ampal bond deal, counsels adviser: The financial consultancy Entropy recommends that institutional investors oppose the debt arrangement proposed by Ampal-American Israel. Ampal had asked for more time to hash out its proposal. Entropy suspects the company didn't use the interim to come up with a better deal; it went so far as to write that it suspects the company used the interim to channel assets to "interested parties or other creditors." Why would Entropy, its name notwithstanding, descend to such dark suspicions? Because Ampal doesn't behave transparently, Entropy explains, it hasn't published any sources and uses report or a report on how it means to meet its liabilities.

Petrochemicals selling Avgol: Beset by debt, Israel Petrochemical Enterprises is selling its stake in nonwoven textiles maker Avgol (think sanitary napkins, diapers and the like). Petrochemicals, which owes banks, bondholders and others NIS 1.9 billion, is negotiating the sale of its 44.5 percent Avgol stake with the London-based private investments fund Ethemba at a company value of NIS 270 million for Avgol.