Daily Roundup / Israel Chemicals to Sell Water Purification Tablets to Syria

Maariv workers try to stave off company's purchase while S&P has high marks for Israel.

Israeli firm selling water purification tablets to Syria: An Israel Chemicals unit has received the Israeli government's blessing to sell water purification tablets to Syria. To be clear, the direct client for the AquaTabs made by ICL unit Medentech is UNICEF. The Finance Ministry under Yuval Steinitz acceded to ICL's request, which was needed in order to sell to an enemy country. ICL acquired Medentech, which operates out of Wexford, Ireland, in December 2009.

Maariv workers trying to foil company's purchase: The court has ordered the IDB group to reopen the auction of the floundering newspaper group Maariv, which right-wing publisher Shlomo Ben-Zvi agreed to buy last month. The rub is that some 1,700 of Maariv's 2,000 workers would be fired under the deal with Ben-Zvi. The Tel Aviv District Court on Saturday evening acceded to the petition from the trustees supervising Maariv's operations to reopen the contest, and told the trustees to publish ads in the papers soliciting new bids for all or some of Maariv's assets and shares.

Foreign funds soak up IDB Development paper: Meanwhile, back at the ranch, drama ensued over IDB Development Corp B7 bonds on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange last Thursday as funds rebalancing their portfolios dumped the paper – and foreign funds and Israeli institutional investors soaked it up. (IDB Holding Corp is the parent company of the IDB group; IDB Development Corp is one of its direct subsidiaries.) Turnover in IDB Development Corp B7 bonds exploded to NIS 133 million and the price of the bonds soared nearly 11% to NIS 0.4951 (par value NIS 1). The par value of the outstanding principal is about NIS 1.6 billion and they're trading at a market value of about NIS 802 million. The investment funds were acting ahead of the TASE rebalancing its Tel-Bond indexes on Tuesday (today): IDB Development Corp bonds are being deleted from the index following their downgrade to BB and negative outlook. So why did the bonds jump? Market animals whisper that much of the paper was soaked up by at least one foreign investment fund and Israeli institutional investors.

Owner sweetens offer to buy back HOT shares: HOT's controlling shareholder Patrick Drahi is slightly sweetening his offer to buy back the 30.24% public float in the company. He's now offering NIS 38 per share, an upside of 3% from HOT's closing share price on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a shareholder assembly has been called for November 4 to vote on insider transactions for HOT to buy companies privately owned by Drahi, which is part of the process by which Drahi intends to build a fully private telecoms group.

Late on Thursday night HOT announced the insider transaction for it to buy the broadcast rights to two French-language channels partially owned by Drahi. The agreement is for three years at a cost of about 1 million shekels a year, HOT clarified, adding that the transaction isn't an unusual one, given that it's a television company: This is the normal course of business, the company explained.

S&P holds A+ rating for Israel: International credit rating agency Standard & Poor's held Israel's A+ sovereign debt rating and gave it a stable outlook, meaning it doesn't anticipate a rating action any time soon. S&P applauded Israel's flexible economic policy and careful macroeconomic management. Of course, there is always the pesky geopolitical situation: "Israel's traditionally tense relations with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are further complicated by the stand-off with Iran, lawlessness on Israel's shared border with Egypt, a civil war in Syria, and radicalized domestic groups eager to provoke confrontation," the agency wrote.

With reporting by Yoram Gabison, Michael Rochvarger and Amitai Ziv.