Teva to Shutter Central Israel Factory as Part of Cost Cutting Measures

Business in Brief | Tel Aviv shares trade mixed as energy stocks post gains ■ BioCanCell tender offers fails to win minority-shareholder backing ■ Apax receives 500 million shekel offer for Zap from Axel Springer ■ Discount Bank resumes dividend payout after nine years

A Teva Pharmaceutical Industries building is seen in Jerusalem December 14, 2017.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

Discount Bank resumes dividend payout after nine years

Israel Discount Bank, the country’s fourth-largest lender by assets, said Wednesday its board authorized a policy to pay dividends of up to 15% of net profit starting in the first quarter of next year. The bank’s new dividend policy was adopted after the bank met the government’s capital-adequacy requirements and it received approval from the Bank of Israel’s supervisor of banks. Discount  said it was not committing itself to paying a fixed dividend and that each quarterly payout would be subject to board approval. Israel’s banks ceased paying dividends in the wake of the global financial crisis. Discount, which last paid a dividend in 2008, is the last to renew a dividend policy and its rate is much lower than the others. Hapoalim and Leumi are paying out 40% of net profit while Mizrahi Tefahot is paying 30% and First International up to 50%. Discount shares ended down 0.3% at 9.97 shekels ($2.87).  (Michael Rochvarger)

Teva to shutter Assia factory in Petah Tikva, putting nearly 150 people out of work

Teva Pharmaceuticals plans to close its Assia plant in Petah Tikva and lay off most of its 150 workers as it slashes its worldwide payroll. News of the layoffs came Wednesday from the Histadrut Leumit labor union, which represents the staff, most of whom are employed in conducting research and development into generic drugs. Teva said two weeks ago it would ax 14,000 staff worldwide, including 1,700 in Israel, is order to cut costs by $3 billion a year by 2019, or 19% of its total costs, as it struggles to repay $35 billion in debt it ran up buying Activis Generics last year. In Israel, Teva’s payroll is likely to shrink even more as the company sells its Migada plant in Kiryat Shmona, the Teva Medical facility in Ashdod and reportedly its giant logistics center in Shoham, which altogether employ about 930 people. Teva shares ended up 0.1% at 66.49 shekels ($19.13). (Yoram Gabison)

Apax receives 500 million shekel offer for Zap from Axel Springer

The U.K. private equity firm Apax Partners is in talks to sell Israeli shopping comparison website Zap to German publishing firm Axel Springer for up to 500 million shekels ($144 million), a source close to the matter said Wednesday, confirming media reports. Apax and Axel Springer declined to comment. The source said Apax was reviewing offers from buyers after putting Zap up for sale two weeks ago at a price of between 450 million and 500 million shekels. In addition to Axel Springer, the KKR private equity fund, Bain Capital, Blackstone and ABRI Partners are also interested in buying Zap, which Apax bought in 2015 for 150 million shekels, the source said. Israeli news websites said the Zap Group operates 22 websites, encompassing 450,000 businesses, garnering 16 million monthly visits by users seeking information for their purchasing decisions. Axel Springer in 2014 bought Israeli classified ads website Yad2 for 806 million shekels. (Reuters)

BioCanCell tender offers fails to win minority-shareholder backing

A tender offer for shares in BioCanCell, which develops treatments for bladder and other cancers, failed to elicit support from minority shareholders, but the company may seek to delist from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. An offer to buy out the 11.1% of the company held by the public won backing from just 13% of minority shareholders even though the offer of 1.70 shekels (49 cents) a share was a 26% premium over BioCanCell’s price on the eve of the tender. BioCanCell’s controlling shareholders, Clal Biotechnology and two U.S. hedge funds, are anxious to take the company private after its received an offer from an American-Israel investor group in October to put as much as $25 million into the company on condition it was taken private. The company needs the capital to to complete clinical trials of its lead drug candidate BC-819. BioCanCell shares, which also trade in the U.S., ended up 3.7% at 1.68 shekels in Tel Aviv. (Yoram Gabison)

Tel Aviv shares trade mixed as energy stocks post gains

Tel Aviv shares traded mixed Wednesday as the blue chip TA-35 index drifted lower. The benchmark index ended down 0.1% at 1,506.40 points, while the TA-125 edged 0.05% higher to 1,360.56. Turnover was 1.23 billion shekels ($350 million). Oil and gas shares trended higher, led by a 3.6% gain for Delek Energy to 1,290 shekels. Ratio added 1.1% to 2.23 and Tamar Petroleum 1% to 19.01. Banks were the only sector to end lower, paced by a 1.4% drop for First International Bank of Israel. Spacecom rose 5.2% to 19.15 after reporting it signed a contract to provide more satellite services to an unnamed Asian customer for $16.7 million. Shares of Together Startup Network, which jumped 55% Tuesday after it said it was going into the medical marijuana business, slumped 6.2% Wednesday to 1.30. Discount Investment Corporation was the second most active share of the day, rising 0.75% to 13.48, despite no announcement coming from the company. (Guy Erez)