The Ticker / Acquisition Boosts Orbotech Quarterly Profit

LivePerson profit falls despite jump in sales, Israel Corporation severs last ties with Qoros.

Tian Tian

Acquisition boosts Orbotech quarterly profit

Orbotech, the maker of equipment for manufacturing electronic components, said on Thursday it boosted fourth-quarter 2014 net profit 50% from the same time a year ago, boosted by its acquisition of SPTS Technologies Group last July. Net earnings, not counting one-time factors, were $21.9 million (or 51 cents a share), but they fell far short of the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of 62 cents, and profit margins were slightly lower. Revenues rose even faster, adding 62% to $197 million, ahead of the $190.2 million consensus. Orbotech estimated first-quarter 2015 revenues would be in the range of $180 million to $185 million, and gross margin will be between 43% and 44%. “We enter 2015 as a significantly larger scale, more diversified and geographically balanced company,” CEO Asher Levy said. Orbotech shares were down 1.4% at $15.75 on Thursday morning in New York.

LivePerson profit falls despite jump in sales

LivePerson, whose platform is used by companies to engage with customers via chat, voice, and content delivery, said on Thursday that net profit not counting one-time expenses dropped by two-thirds in the fourth quarter from a year ago to $1 million, or 2 cents a share. The decline came even as sales rose 24% to $58.2 million. Profit missed Wall Street expectations, which was for earnings of 4 cents a share, according to an average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research. Analysts expected revenues of $57.5 million, which LivePerson exceeded, according to Zack. For the current quarter, LivePerson, which is traded in New York and Tel Aviv, said it expected to post per-share earnings of between 3 and 6 cents on revenue of $60 million to $61 million. LivePerson shares, which have fallen 25% this year, lost another 6.6%, to end at 37.80 shekels ($9.71).

Israel Corp. severs last ties with Qoros

The Israel Corporation severed its last remaining ties with the troubled Chinese auto venture Qoros on Wednesday. The holding company made available the first $45 million of some $200 million in loans it agreed to give Kenon Holdings, the holding company split off from Israel Corporation last month and Qoros with it. By making the loan, Israel Corp. is now also freed of the $300 million in guarantees it had given Qoros when it owned the company. The Chinese automaker, which Kenon jointly owns with China’s Chery Automobile, sold just 1,880 vehicles in the third quarter and lost $38 million. Kenon is using its shares in closely held IC Power, which operates electric power plants in Latin America, as collateral for the loans. With the latest loans, 53% of IC Power shares have been pledged to Israel Corp., the holding company said. Israel Corp. shares rose 0.8% on Thursday, to end at 1,311 shekels ($3.37).

Ukraine cease-fire give shares a brief lift

Tel Aviv shares, particularly those with exposure to the Russian economy, got a midday lift Thursday on news that Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine had agreed a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. The joy quickly faded, however, leaving the TA-25 index down 0.3% for the day at 1,452.46 points, in unusually heavy trading of nearly 2.8 billion shekels ($720 million). The TA-100 also fell 0.3% to 1,281.62. Russia-related stocks kept their gains, with Eliezer Fishman’s Jerusalem Economy ending up 4.9% at 14.92 shekels and Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments gaining 7.9% to end at 4 shekels. Perrigo was the day’s most active share, advancing 1.9% to 589.90 shekels. Ormat Technologies wasn’t far behind, dropping 2.9% to 29.51. Teva Pharmaceuticals said on Thursday it would buy up to $1 billion in notes to lower its financial costs. The company said it expects to issue new, lower interest Eurobonds or other notes in their place. TowerJazz closed up 0.7% at 55 shekels after it said it would manufacture chips for FLIR Systems' infrared technology. Market sources said TowerJazz’s revenue from this could reach tens of millions of dollars a year.