The Ticker

The Ticker: Bank Leumi Planning to Launch Pepper App in the U.S.

Harel drops Isracard as future partner in favor of Leumi Card ■ Fox posts big gains in sales, profits despite web competition, harassment accusations

A Bank Leumi branch in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Nir Elias/Reuters

Bank Leumi planning to launch Pepper app in the U.S.

Bank Leumi is planning to launch its online banking service Pepper in the United States, CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach told the Financial Times in an interview published on Monday. “We said we wanted to go overseas and we searched wide,” she said. The bank had weighed expanding to India before the U.S. was chosen as its first overseas market due to its size and because American banks are so technologically advanced in most, but not all, respects. She added that expansion was influenced by inquiries from foreign banks and potential partners. “We… are currently pursuing several options for collaborations in the U.S. with significant and interesting players,” Russak-Aminoach said, without revealing any names. Leumi will take a minority stake in a Pepper USA operation, she said. Launched in June 2017, Pepper provides all ordinary banking services through its app, including transferring funds, applying for loans, ordering credit cards and check books as well as managing accounts. Leumi shares finished 1.3% higher at 24.30 shekels ($6.56). (Michael Rochvarger)

Harel drops Isracard as future partner in favor of Leumi Card

Insurance company Harel is reportedly in the process of changing partners between Israel’s two biggest credit card companies. Harel let lapse at the end of October a memorandum of understanding with Isracard to form a partnership to provide insurance and loans to households and small businesses. Instead, it is now in negotiations to form a similar partnership with Leumi Card. Harel assumed that when it signed the MOU that Isracard would be sold by Bank Hapoalim to another controlling shareholder, but talks between the bank and the U.S. private equity fund Bain Capital, the sole bidder, are stuck. Meanwhile, Bank Leumi has agreed to sell its Leumi Card to another U.S. PE fund, Warburg Pincus. Harel is said to be talking with Warburg about buying a stake in Leumi Card and forming joint ventures in insurance and consumer credit. Both areas are regarded as growth engines for the credit card companies as they are spun off from their bank owners. (Michael Rochvarger)

Fox posts big gains in sales, profits despite web competition, harassment accusations

In its first financial report since its CEO Harel Wizel was accused of sexual harassment, the apparel chain Fox Wizel reported double-digit gains in sales and profits, seeing its share price soaring. The company said third-quarter net profit jumped 70% to 35 million shekels ($9.5 million) as sales climbed 38% to 547 million shekels. Most of the growth was due to new brands added to its portfolio, such as Foot Locker and Urban Outfitters. Nevertheless it showed Fox was coping with the rise of online shopping and the harassment accusations, which surfaced last August. An October report by an outside investigator cleared Wizel and others of any alleged violations. “Fox has proven again and again that despite challenging market conditions it has created the tools to cope with in the challenges facing the fashion market,” said Gil Datner, analyst at Leumi Capital Markets. Fox shares ended 7.4% higher at 83.49 shekels. (Eran Azran)

Evogene spinning off its agrochemical operations into subsidiary

Evogene, an Israeli biotechnology company, said on Monday it was spinning off its agrochemicals operations into a separate subsidiary that it may eventually take public. Called AgPlenus, the new unit will focus on developing next generation products and have access to Evogene’s Computational Predictive Biology platform to continue product development. It said its agrochemical operations, which began in 2014, now had a substantial product pipeline focusing on herbicides and insecticides as well as a market strategy. Evogene’s collaborations with global companies such as BASF and ICL will also be transferred to the new subsidiary, it added.” In the future, it may also allow potential investors direct access to this unique agrochemical pipeline,” said Evogene CEO Ofer Haviv. He said that access could come by enlisting strategic investors or through an initial public offering. Evogene shares were down 11.9% at $2.51 late morning local time in New York. (Yoram Gabison)

Blue chips weigh on Tel Aviv shares

Tel Aviv shares ended lower on Monday as the benchmark TA-35 index slipped into minus territory in the final 90 minutes of trading. The TA-35 closed 0.3% lower at 1,635.71 points, while the TA-125 lost 0.2% to 1,473.50, on light turnover of 1.05 billion shekels ($280 million). The TA-35 was weighed down by blue chips Teva Pharmaceuticals (down 1.9% at 81.40 shekels), Nice (down 1% to 419) and Israel Discount bank (down 1.2% to 12.83). Telecoms stocks gained for a second day – Partner Communications rose 2.5% to close at 19.08, Cellcom Israel 2.4% to 24.787 and Bezeq added 2% to 4.66. Electra Consumer, which controls Golan Telecom, rose 3.7% to 36.55, despite reporting a sharp downturn in third-quarter net profit to 14 million shekels from 42 million a year earlier. Dor Alon rose 0.1% to 50.06. The holding company said on Monday that net fell 16% year on year to 28.1 million shekels in the quarter. (Jasmin Gueta)