The Ticker: Mega Looking to Sell Its You Stores

Leumi selling its stake in Route 6 toll road; First International Bank of Israel merges two affiliates into main bank company; TASE up moderately, led by energy and real estate stocks.

Ofer Vaknin

Mega supermarkets of the Alon group’s Blue Square Israel firm is seeking to sell its You brand discount supermarkets, which currently employ about 2,000 people and have about 30 stores. The chairman of the Mega supermarket workers’ committee, Eli Eyal, said his committee had been approached by management regarding the employees’ stance over such a move and responded that the workers would not object if the buyer abided by the current wage agreement at You. Management, he added, did not mention any plans to lay off staff at You.

Blue Square Israel confirmed that it is in negotiations with the workers’ committee as part of its efforts to implement a recovery plan for the troubled food retailer, but declined to provide details. On news of the possible sale, Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn convened a meeting today with Mega’s management and workers’ committee to ensure that the employees would not lose their jobs in any sale.

Leumi selling its stake in Route 6 toll road

Bank Leumi said Wednesday that its subsidiary Leumi Partners agreed to sell its entire 18.9% holding in a partnership that invested in Route 6, the trans-Israel toll road, for 351 million shekels ($91.5 million). Leumi Partners agreed to sell the stake to a number of buyers, who will pay an additional 4.3 million shekels if certain conditions are met, the bank said in a statement. Leumi Partners will book a pre-tax gain of 100 million shekels upon completion of the sale. Bank Leumi has been seeking to sell off non-financial holdings. In February it sold a 6.9% stake in the Israel Corporation. 

First International Bank of Israel merges two affiliates into main bank company

The board of directors of First National Bank of Israel approved the merger yesterday of two affiliate banks, Bank Poalei Agudat Israel and U-Bank, into its main banking corporation. The two small banks have been wholly-owned by FIBI but have been maintained as separate corporate entities. Bank Poalei Agudat Israel operates within the ultra-Orthodox community while U-Bank specializes in private banking for wealthy clients as well as customers active in the capital markets. FIBI described the move as an efficiency measure and said that the two banks would be maintained as separate brands.

The move comes, however, against the backdrop of provision in Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulunu party election platform that called for FIBI to sell its small banks to increase banking competition. Bank Leumi, which owns the Arab Israel Bank, recently issued a surprise announcement that it would also merge the bank into the banking corporation.

TASE up moderately, led by energy and real estate stocks 

Trading started off on a positive foot on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday following gains on Wall St. the day before. Higher stock prices were led by the natural gas partnerships as contacts continued with government regulators to find an overall solution to efforts to deal with pricing and concerns of monopoly control in the sector. Ratio Oil Exploration shares gained 2.5% and stock in the Delek Group was 1,7% higher on the day. The Real Estate-15 index rose by 1.4%. Dual-traded tech stocks also did well, but by closing the Tel Aviv-25 index was unchanged on the day at 1,688.12.

The broader Tel Aviv-100 index rose by 0.31% to 1,457.19 points. Trading volume was a relatively thin 999 million shekels ($260 million). Among the tech stocks that surged were Liverperson and Perion Network, which jumped by 5.3%, and Sapiens International, which was up by 5%. Stocks trading lower included Jerusalem Economy, which dropped by 2.1%, and the Israel Corporation, which slumped by 1.7%. The corporate bond indexes were up between 0.11% and 0.14%.