Business in Brief

The Alliance tire company is carrying out a second wave of layoffs in just a few weeks. This time the firm is firing 50 tenured workers from its Hadera plant. All the workers belong to the Histadrut labor federation, which has acquiesced to the move on condition that the laid off workers get sweetened severance pay. At the start of November, Alliance laid off 170 temps and 40 workers. The latest round brings the number of dismissals to 260, or about 25% of Alliance's local workforce.

In yet more downbeat news from industry, Negev Tech, which makes equipment to test silicon wafers, has fired 136 workers and remained with a skeleton staff of 11 as it fights for bankruptcy protection. The remaining 11 are all management and administration. Though the pink slips were delivered only yesterday, they were backdated to November 2. Negev Tech owes NIS 135 million, including October salaries to 147 workers.

And Motorola Israel is letting 50 Israelis go as the global parent company pares back. A month back, the international Motorola group announced that it was firing 4.5% of its workforce, or about 3,000 people, as it tightened its focus on strong target markets such as North America and abandoned weak ones, and its cellular devices department also. At the time, Motorola Israel said its workers were safe, though 20 people were let go from MIRS, a cellular Motorola Israel subsidiary. Times change, though, and Motorola Israel commented that it's adjusting to its reality.

Idan Ofer is showing the faith with an NIS 17 million purchase of shares in the holding company he controls together with his father Sammy Ofer - The Israel Corporation. This week Ofer the son bought 18,000 shares in the company. Commenting on the situation, Idan Ofer noted that Israel Corporation subsidiary Zim, a shipping and hauling firm being savaged by the steep downturn in its sector, has degrees of freedom because most of its fleet is leased. Some of the leases end in the next 12 months, and Zim is in a good position to negotiate lower lease prices, Ofer suggested.

After all that depressing news about layoffs, here's an interesting item: despite the economic turmoil, revenues from tourism to Israel should reach a record NIS 15 billion this year, predicts the Tourism Ministry. Its figures show that tourist entries to Israel also spiked to record levels, even higher than the 2.7 million posted in 2000, when the Pope visited the Holy Land, which spurred an influx of pilgrims. The U.S. kept its title as No. 1 source of tourists to Israel, with 625,000 visitors this year or 20% of the total. The runner up was Russia, with 370,000 visitors - but 44% of them came only for the day. (Irit Rosenblum)