Roundup / Was Buying Maariv Logical for IDB?

Discount Investments shareholders claim the company's purchase of the floundering publishing company Maariv a year ago was 'illogical' and hurt the group.

Would Spock have approved the purchase of Maariv? Discount Investments shareholders sued on Wednesday over the company's purchase of the floundering publishing company Maariv a year ago. The shareholders motioned the court to approve an NIS 370 million derivative lawsuit against the company, its controlling shareholder and former chairman Nochi Dankner, and its directors, based on the claim that the acquisition had been "illogical." The purchase badly hurt the group, claim the shareholders; and even at the time the purchase was made it had been clear ("or should have been clear") that the acquisition was "economically unfeasible, and not in the company's favor." The acquisition, they surmise, was designed to serve "other interests, not the company's." Discount Investments is a subsidiary of the IDB group, which is controlled by Nochi Dankner.

IDB bondholders sue to block payments to selves: Bondholders of IDB Holding Corp. are worried that the company will pay off some bondholders and creditors, leaving others out in the cold. On Wednesday morning, representatives of the holding group's bondholders sued in court ex parte, hoping to block any payments to any specific groups of bondholders. Specifically, they want IDB to withhold the NIS 35 million due to Series B2 bondholders on Thursday morning; however, they want IDB to deposit the sum with a trustee. They are not trying to block routine payments to suppliers. The bondholders point out that IDB Holding Corp. itself stated it would have difficulty meeting its liabilities unless it finds an external investor.

Bakers claim bread is cheaper here: The union of bakers on Wednesday deflected claims by the consumer-rights organization Public Trust, which said bread costs more in Israel than in the U.S., Britain and Australia (hundreds of percent more, claims Public Trust). "Based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bread in Israel is at least 40% cheaper than in the U.S.," claims Yochanan Aharonson of Davidovich Bakery, the bakery union chairman. Public Trust's calculation factored in purchasing power disparities, says Aharonson: He admits he doesn't know what that means, but he compared dollar-for-shekel and concluded that bread here is cheaper. White bread costs NIS 12.65 before VAT in the U.S., claims Aharonson, while here it's NIS 10.49.

Frutarom site off shortlist for future natgas terminal: The national planning committee decided on Wednesday against adding a site in Acre as a potential home for a future natural-gas liquefaction facility. While large amounts of natgas have been found in Israel's territorial water sin the Mediterranean Sea, the issue of where to build an LNG terminal is a knotty one. The defense establishment had objected to the Acre site, formerly owned by chemicals company Frutarom and now by energy group Delek, because of its proximity to a facility run by the Arms development company Rafael.

Discount takes back money from Ampal: A week after Ampal management sued for protection from creditors in New York, Discount Bank seized the last opportunity to get back some money from the embattled holdings group. On Tuesday morning, Discount Bank announced that it was helping itself to NIS 67 million from Ampal's deposits at the bank. Ampal's debt to Discount is secured by all Ampal's holdings in its subsidiary Gadot Biochemical Tankers; the bank also holds all Ampal's deposits.

Holiday shopping will cost more this year: As usual Israel's retail chains are fighting over shoppers with discounts for the holidays. That said, TheMarker did a round of price checks on 40 products this week. While it is true that VAT rose from 16% to 17% on September 1, and prices of raw materials have also increased, TheMarker found prices at all chains much higher than before Rosh Hashanah 2011. Many prices were hundreds of percent higher than in last year's pre-holiday run-up. The total price of the 42 products had increased by 4% at Machsanei Kimat Hinam, and 35% at Mega Bool. If last year Rami Levi had sold a whole chicken for NIS 6.40, this year it's NIS 9.80, while at Mega Bool a chicken costs115% more at NIS 14. Bottom line: Rami Levi, yet again, was cheapest. This year Mega Bool was the costliest, charging 40% more for the same basket of products as Rami Levi.