Business in Brief: Israel's Antitrust Authority Approves Electra’s Takeover of Golan Telecom

MK holding up bourse reform over access to legal opinion; Stratasys shares tumble on weak 2017 earnings outlook; Shares end unchanged as Israel Chemicals rallies on revived potash cartel.

Golan Telecom's CEO Michael Golan at the company's offices in Tel Aviv.
Eyal Toueg

Antitrust Authority approves Electra’s takeover of Golan Telecom

Israel’s Antitrust Commissioner Michal Halperin on Thursday approved Electra Consumer Products’ 350-million-shekel ($94.9 million) acquisition of  cellular provider Golan Telecom. The takeover still requires a go-ahead from the Communications Ministry, but that is a formality and should be forthcoming in the next several days. The antitrust approval should have gone through smoothly since the merger would not have eliminated a player in the cellular market, but it encountered delays after Gil Sharon – who is supposed to become chairman of Golan Telecom when Electra takes control – told a radio interviewer shortly after the deal was announced in January that cellphone rates would be rising after the merger. As a result, Halperin conditioned her approval on Golan offering subscribers limited-term packages not exceeding 30 shekels a month at least once in each of the three remaining quarters of 2017. Shares of Electra jumped 9.9% to a record high of 70.70 shekels. (Amitai Ziv)

MK holding up bourse reform over access to legal opinion

Legislation that would allow the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to restructure itself as a for-profit corporation is being held up in the Knesset by MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), who is demanding that a legal opinion be made public because it formed the basis for the law. The Israel Securities Authority has refused to release the document, which it says was for internal use only, but Haskel is convinced it will show that the bourse’s membership – which comprises banks and big brokerage houses – do not have ownership rights of the TASE. If so, she contends, there is no reason to give them an equity stake of 60% to 70% in the restructured bourse, as the restructuring plan calls for. “It seems strange that legislation is being based on a legal opinion that no Knesset member, as representatives of the public, can see,” Haskel told TheMarker. The law has been approved by the finance committee and awaits a vote by the full Knesset. (Shelly Appelberg)

Stratasys shares tumble on weak 2017 earnings outlook

Shares of Stratasys, the Israeli-U.S. maker of 3-D printers, tumbled on Thursday after better-than-expected fourth-quarter 2016 results were clouded by a weak outlook. The company reported adjusted earnings of 15 cents a share – triple the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue reached $175.3 million, above the consensus estimate of $169.3 million. For 2017, however, the company forecast revenue in the range of $645 million to $680 million, below the average estimate by analysts of $693 million. It said it expected adjusted earnings in the range of 19 cents to 37 cents a share – well below the consensus of 49 cents. The company attributed the weaker outlook to its not being able to record a tax benefit on U.S. tax losses in its adjusted net income and urged investors to focus instead on its non-GAAP operating income. To no avail: Stratasys shares were down 7.4% at $18.58 at noon in New York. (TheMarker Staff)

Shares end unchanged as Israel Chemicals rallies on revived potash cartel

Tel Aviv shares ended the day virtually unchanged on Thursday as the market began a three-day Purim weekend. The TA-35 and TA-125 indices eked out gains of less than 0.1% to end at 1,439.21 and 1,281.42 points, respectively, on turnover of 1.42 billion shekels ($390 million). Israel Chemicals shares climbed 6% to 16.59 shekels after Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko signaled he was ready to restore the world potash cartel by cooperating with Russia’s Uralkali. Parent company the Israel Corporation rose 7.3% to close at 718 shekels. The insurance sector was the biggest sectoral gainer for the day, with Harel leading the way on a 5% advance to 20.89 shekels. Volume leader Bank Hapoalim extended its gains, adding 1% to end at 23.82 shekels after rising more than 4% the previous two sessions. Intec Pharma jumped 2.3% to 17.27 after it said it had raised $10 million from private investors to finance Phase III trials of its Accordion Pill. (Guy Erez)