Business in Brief: Moody’s Raises Israel Debt Outlook to Positive

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A monitor displays Moody's Corp. signage on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, March 27, 2017.
A monitor displays Moody's Corp. signage on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, March 27, 2017.Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Moody’s raises Israel sovereign debt outlook to Positive

Moody’s Investors Service revised Israel’s sovereign debt outlook Friday to “positive” from “stable” and affirmed its A1 rating, citing the “favorable” fiscal situation and “increasingly resilient economy.” The agency noted the government debt ratio had declined by more than 10 percentage points since the last upward move in Israel’s credit rating in 2008, to around 60% of gross domestic product. “Israel is one of only a handful of advanced economies (including Norway, Switzerland and Singapore, which are all rated Aaa with a stable outlook) with a lower debt to GDP ratio today than before the [2008] global financial crisis,” Moody’s said. Regarding the broader economy, it noted that Israel had average real GDP growth of 3.5% annually over the past decade, stronger than the median 2.9% of its A1-rated peers. It warned, however, that geopolitical setbacks could deter investment and increase defense spending, with negative implications for the country’s external position and fiscal accounts. (Avi Waksman)

High Court suggests El Al drop suit over Air India flights

El Al Airlines suffered a major setback last week when the High Court of Justice urged the carrier to drop a lawsuit seeking to block Air India from flying to Israel over Saudi Arabian airspace. El Al has asked the court to block the flights, which shortens flying times and fuel costs, as unfair competition, but after hearing opening arguments justices Hanan Melcer, Daphne Barak-Erez and David Minitz gave El Al a week to decide whether to withdraw the suit — albeit with the option of refiling using different arguments. Barak-Erez and Mintz signaled that they disagreed with El Al’s contention that the court should ban all airlines from flying a certain route to ensure a level playing field, even if El Al is banned from the route for national security reasons. Instead, they said, El Al should seek compensation from the government. El Al has rejected the idea of compensation, saying that would still leave Air India at an advantage in flight duration. (Gabriela Davidovich-Weisberg and Efrat Neuman)

ReWalk shares soar on news of expanded veteran access for exoskeletons

Shares of ReWalk, the Israeli maker of robotic exoskeletons used by people who have suffered spinal cord injuries or stroke, soared in New York Friday after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issued a revision to its policy on exoskeleton medical device training. The new policy expands access to training program locations in the VA network and private rehabilitation centers through the VA’s Veterans Choice Program. ReWalk said that resulted in 142 private and VA training centers across the U.S. potentially available to train veterans to use ReWalk. “Numerous injured veterans who have expressed an interest in obtaining a ReWalk, but have not been able to participate due to a lack of availability in their area, can now have access,” said ReWalk CEO Larry Jasinski. ReWalk shares ended 74% higher at $1.25. (TheMarker Staff)

Teva joins Mylan in victory over Allergan in patent dispute about best-selling drug

In a victory for Teva Pharmaceuticals and Mylan, a U.S. appeals court Friday rejected a novel strategy adopted by Allergan to prevent the two companies from making generic versions of its dry-eye treatment Restasis. Allergan had sought to protect its Restasis patents from a review by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board after challenges were filed by Teva, Mylan and a third company, Akorn. Allergan employed the novel legal strategy of transferring the rights to New York’s Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in September 2017, claiming that the tribe’s sovereign status meant the patents were immune from review. But in February the patent tribunal rejected Allergan’s maneuver and the Federal Circuit affirmed that holding on Friday. Teva and Mylan, which are seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for generic versions of Restasis, now move a step closer to capturing some of the $1.4 billion in revenues the drug generated in the 12 months through March. (Yoram Gabison)

Former Housing & Construction CEO questioned by police in bribery affair

The ongoing investigation into allegations that Israel’s Housing & Construction bribed African and other officials has snared another of the company’s former top executives.  Investigators on Sunday questioned former CEO Yaron Karisi in a widening probe that now includes the Israel Securities Authority.  Karisi was named H&C CEO in February 2015 and left in July 2017 to take the top job as Afcon Holdings, another construction engineering company. Last Thursday, another former CEO, Ofer Kutler,  and former Chairwoman Ravit Barniv were called in for questioning as was Rony Paluch, the current CEO of the company’s SBI unit, which is at the center of the probe. Earlier last week H&C Chairman Moshe Lahmani and a number of employees in its finance department including Chief Financial Officer Tal Raz were questioned by police. Shari Arison, H&C’s controlling shareholder, last month agreed to sell the company to Israeli-American property entrepreneur Naty Saidoff. (Efrat Neuman)