U.S. SEC Seeking Israeli Help in Mobileye Insider Trading Probe

Business in Brief | Sources: Israel readying for first dollar bond since March 2016 ■ Oil Refineries CEO quits, citing regulatory demands ■ Tax deductions on IPOs approved by Knesset Finance Committee ■ Teva Pharamceuticals leads Tel Aviv shares to gain

File photo: Mobileye co-founder Amnoon Shashua.
Emil Salman

U.S. SEC seeking Israeli help in Mobileye insider trading probe

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to ask the Israeli authorities to help it gather testimony and other evidence in the Mobileye insider-trading case. Virginia residents Lawrence Cluff Jr. and Roger Shaoul have been charged by the SEC with insider trading in Mobileye stock before the Israeli maker of driverless-vehicle technology agreed to a $15.3 billion takeover by Intel Corporation last year. U.S. securities investigators are seeking testimony in Israel from James Shaoul, who is suspected of relaying the insider information to his brother, Roger. The SEC also wants testimony from Ziv Sheleg, who works at a financial services firm in Israel; Yossi Azarzar, who is friends with Mobileye employees; and Moshe Ruach, an employee of Israel’s Bank Leumi. The petition not only seeks help from Israel Securities Authority investigators but asks that SEC officials be present when the testimony is taken. (Shelly Appelberg)

Sources: Israel readying for first dollar bond since March 2016

The government of Israel has sent a request for proposal to banks, sources told Reuters over the weekend. They said that Israel, which now enjoys as A1 rating from Moody’s and A-plus ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, is likely to issue a U.S. dollar bond in the first quarter. Israel sold a 2.25 billion euro ($2.65 billion at current exchange rates) dual-tranche bond in January this year, becoming the first sovereign issuer in the European, Middle Eastern and African region outside the European Union, to issue 20-year notes in the currency. Israel last issued a dollar bond in March 2016 when it raised $1.5 billion through an offering comprising a $1 billion of new debt at a yield of 2.875% due in March 2026 and a $500 million expansion of an existing issue paying 4.5% and due in January 2043. The latter series was subsequently tapped again for a further US$200 million. (Reuters)

Oil Refineries CEO quits, citing regulatory demands 

After a little over two years on the job, Avner Maimon said on Sunday he was stepping down as CEO of Oil Refineries Limited. Maimon, who gave the board until February 28 to find a successor, said he was quitting because of Environmental Affairs Ministry demands for reducing emissions at the company’s Haifa plant, which he said set impossible timetables and imposed personal sanctions on executives who fail to meet them. “They aren’t willing to entertain any concession or postponement,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s the extreme and angry voices that are getting heard.” Last week, the company said it would pay a $65 million dividend, despite what sources said were divisions on the board about making such a big payout. But Maimon said that was not connected with his decision to quit. Shares of Oil Refineries, which has gone through three CEOs in the last six years, ended down 3.25% at 1.79 shekels (51 cents). (Yoram Gabison)

Tax deductions on IPOs approved by Knesset Finance Committee  

The Knesset Finance Committee has approved legislation that would let companies deduct the cost of a public offering against their taxes. The private members bill, which now goes to the full Knesset for its second and third readings before becoming law, could give a new impetus to a wave of 15 initial public offerings on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in 2017. Until this year, the TASE had suffered an IPO drought, with just 12 offerings between 2012 and 2066, which analysts attributed at least in part to the high costs involved, especially for small companies. If enacted, the bill approved last Wednesday by the committee should help reduce them. The government, however, opposes the law, citing the absence of any legislation to cover the 80 million shekels ($22.8million) of tax revenues it will cost. The Association of Public Companies, however, took issue with the estimate for lost tax revenues. (Guy Erez)

Teva Pharamceuticals leads Tel Aviv shares to gain

Tel Aviv shares ended higher on Sunday, powered by a surging Teva Pharmaceuticals that overcame declines on Wall Street over the weekend. Teva ended the day up 8.8% at 48.01 shekels ($13.66), making the third straight session of big gains for the drug maker. The benchmark TA35 index added 0.2% to end at 1,409.06 points, while the TA-125 rose 0.2% to 1,292.01, on turnover of 478 million shekels. Other big gainers were Frutarom, which advanced 2.6% to 277.40 and Opko Health, which added 2.1% to 17.04. Housing & Development Limited rose 0.3% to 8.28 after it said it had organized a group to buy most of its stakes in the Carmel Tunnel and Netivei Hatzafon for 580 million shekels. Electra Group fell 0.7% to 747.90 despite reporting a 123% jump in third-quarter profit after discounting one-time factors, Compugen led TA-125 losers, tumbling 6.2% to 9.16, resuming along strong of losses after a two-day rally last week. (Omri Zerachovitz)