Daily Roundup / Grocers Gorged on Fruit Margins in September

Smartphones are about to get cheaper; grocers padded their pockets on the price of produce in September; meanwhile Netanyahu scrambles for a majority vote on his budget to avoid early elections.

Smartphones to get cheaper in Israel: Smartphone prices in Israel should be dropping hard after the Communications Ministry decided to abolish the paperwork required for import. To wit, until now, importing smartphones required two pieces of paper: a trading license and a "model permit" attesting that the device met Israeli standards and operated on frequencies available in Israel. No more! It isn't that you can import pink plastic hippos and claim they're phones, but you can freely import are any device that meets European EC or U.S. FCC standards. The ministry expects the changes to widen the range of smartphones available in Israel and shorten their arrival to market.

Grocers gorged in September: Grocers made money on fresh produce hand over fist during September. The retail margin, which is the difference between the price the grocer pays for products and the price he charges you, reached record heights. The Israel Farmers Association says that stores in central Israel charged NIS 30 per kilo of kiwi in September, a 240% markup over the price they paid to farmers for the furry fruit. Stores made 210% on persimmons (NIS 15 per kilo to consumers), 165% on lemons (NIS 10 to consumers), 245% on Granny Smith and Gala apples (NIS 9), 230% on peaches (also NIS 9) and 220% on quinces (NIS 10). The high prices deter shoppers and ultimately hurt farmers, the association complained.

No candy from Partner but Scailex says it's solvent: Scailex won't be ruined by the disappearance of dividends from key group company Partner Communications, says its board. On Thursday last week the Partner board of directors tossed out the mobile operator's dividend policy for 2012. The policy stated that Partner, which is 45% owned by Ilan-Ben Dov's company Scailex, would pay at least 80% of its net profit as dividends. The Israel Securities Authority told Scailex to clarify how the policy change at Partner would affect its own situation. The Scailex board convened before Yom Kippur to discuss Partner's move and its implications for Scailex's own prospects of meeting its liabilities Income from Partner had been key to the company's plans. In short, the directors decided Scailex would not descend to default: They examined the company's net asset value and various scenarios regarding sources and uses, and concluded that the company is solvent, the board stated.

Netanyahu looks to drum up a majority on budget: As the people of Israel broke their Yom Kippur fasts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was working on achieving a majority for his 2013 budget plan. In two weeks or so the prime minister will be announcing whether he will submit a budget for vetting by the Knesset, or alternatively, whether elections will be held early. Since his coalition partners are horrified by the idea of early elections, the likelihood is that the budget can be passed, say his associates. The religious party Shas may object to the treasury's plan to slash welfare support for families but will probably support the budget anyway, say the sources; also, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party, has clearly stated that he doesn't want elections held early (i.e., early 2013, as opposed to late 2013).

With reporting by Amitai Ziv, Amiram Cohen, Ora Coren and Zvi Zrahiya