Will Netanyahu Fall? Moody's Says Yes

Business in brief | Menorah under scrutiny over sexual-harassment insurance policies | Court allows Fairtrade to resume operations | Tel Aviv shares close week higher.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, January 2017.
Emil Salman

Moody’s sees chance probes will lead to Netanyahu’s ouster, early election

Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Thursday that the police investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could lead to his ouster and early election. “Although Netanyahu has survived similar investigations in the past, the current charges are sufficiently serious that they could end his tenure as prime minister,” a team of analysts led by Kristin Lindow said.

“Should Netanyahu be forced to resign, it is likely that new elections would need to be held, since there is no clear successor in his Likud party.”

Moody’s cut Israel’s institutional strength rating to Very High from Very High-Plus, citing frequent elections that have created “a divisive and volatile political system.”

The agency affirmed Israel’s A1 rating made last September, but warned that the targeted budget deficits for this year and next could end a 14-year decline in Israel’s debt-to-GDP ratio, which would be a negative for its future rating. (TheMarker Staff)

Menorah under scrutiny over sexual-harassment insurance policies

Menorah Insurance is under scrutiny from the Capital Markets Authority after it was discovered the insurer had been selling professional liability policies that cover financial damages from sexual-harassment suits.

The policies were sold to members of the Israel Bar Association after menorah won competitive bidding to offer professional-liabilities policies. But Capital Markets Commissioner Dorit Salinger said the company violated rules requiring it to vet policies with regulators, and that coverage for sexual-harassment violates a 2013 directive ordering insurers not to provide coverage when the policyholders were convicted of the offense and reached a settlement with the plaintiff.

The rules also require the company buying the policy to have taken steps to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place. The policies were sold for premiums ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 shekels ($396-$529) a year to about 10,000 attorneys.  (Assa Sasson)

Court allows Fairtrade to resume operations

Tel Aviv District Court issued an interim order Thursday allowing the binary options firm Fairtrade to resume operations, two weeks after the Israel Securities Authority ordered it to shut down. Fairtrade.co.il was launched late last year in the hope that its peer-to-peer platform would circumvent the ban on Israelis trading in binary options. However, the ISA closed it down on the grounds that the company was operating an unlicensed securities exchange.

On Thursday, Judge Ruth Ronnen urged the two sides to reach an interim agreement until legislation on binary trading was approved by the Knesset.  But ISA lawyers said there was no room for a compromise, to which Ronnen responded, “I hope you’re not trying to hurt them [Fairtrade] because they didn’t behave nicely and didn’t approach you for a license at the start – because they were under no obligation to come to you. The more interesting question is, had they approached you, what would have been your response?” (Shelly Appelberg)

Tel Aviv shares close week higher

Bloomberg

Tel Aviv shares ended higher in heavy trading Thursday, marking their third session gains. The TA-25 and TA-100 indices both ended 0.18% higher at 1,423.69 and 1,250.29 points, respectively, as 1.94 billion shekels ($512.8 million) in shares changed hands.

Among the biggest gainers, Teva Pharmaceuticals advanced 2.9% to 127.90 shekels. Nova Measuring Instruments rose 2.7% to 56.23 after it said fourth-quarter revenue would be approximately $50 million, exceeding the previously announced guidance of $42 million to $46 million. Israel Chemicals dropped 2.4% to 17.69 shekels after fellow fertilizer maker Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit due to weak prices.

Energy shares were lower, paced by a decline of 2.2% to 1.283 for Delek Drilling and a 1.7% drop for Avner to 2.43. In foreign currency trading, the dollar continued its descent to a Bank of Israel rate of 3.783  shekels, a drop of 1.5% since the start of the year. (Uri Tomer)