Daily Roundup / U.S. Wants to Build Eilat Train

Transport Minister eyes China for railroad job despite U.S. interest, while agricultural exports slump 5 percent.

Ingrates in Jerusalem? The Israel-America Chamber of Commerce is frowning on the notion of China building a train track between central Israel and Eilat, which is what Transport Minister Yisrael Katz has been planning. A month ago Katz signed a collaboration agreement, which included mention that Israel might forgo the usual tender process and give China the job. The Chamber points out that the U.S. and Israel have special relations and that just last week, U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to give Israel more aid. It called on Israel to recognize the American loyalty and not to block American companies from the project.

Israeli produce exports slump: Rattled European consumers and the collapse of Israel's No. 1 fresh-produce export company were undoubtedly behind the 5 percent slump in Israeli agricultural exports in January-April. During the four months Israeli exports of fresh fruit, veggies and flowers fell to $645 million, in terms that are both free on board, and not final (i.e., not confirmed by the Central Bureau of Statistics). The president of the farmers' association, Dov "Dubi" Amitai, bemoaned mounting debt among Israel's farmers and added that Agrexco, the quasi-government export company that imploded, still owes them money. Indeed there is no question that Agrexco's collapse created confusion and problems for Israeli produce exporters; other companies are taking its place but there's no one single address. And then there's the black cloud of economic crisis in Europe. Some 80 percent to 90 percent of Israeli exports go to the European Union.

ST buys start-up for not very much: Sad but true. STMicroelectronics bought the Israeli start-up with which it has been collaborating, bTendo, for less than $10 million. Venture capital funds that had backed bTendo aren't in the red on the deal but this is no dream exit either. ST and bTendo teamed up in early 2011 to develop the world's smallest, cheapest, lowest-power pico-projector, for smart phones and other doodads. This technology now becomes ST's property.

You are wondering what a pico-projector is: Think pocket or mobile projector. The idea is to turn your phone, or whatever device has the beast, into a laser-driven projector capable of projecting images (such as all those pictures of your pet pea plant stored in your phone, or clips of your cat walking on water) onto flat surfaces, and while about it, better a white surface if you want to see anything. Use is made of mirrors: bTendo figured out a way to minimize the need for mirrors.

With reporting by Amiram Cohen, Zohar Blumenkrantz and Daniel Schmil