Strauss-Elite stock offering delayed

Wave of similar announcements seen as global markets slump.

As global capital markets continue to show instability amid concerns about rising interest rates, food maker Strauss-Elite has become the latest Israeli company to delay plans to raise funds through public offerings. Despite two days of gains this week, world markets have been hit by worries that the US Federal Reserve Bank will continue to raise interest rates in an effort to offset inflationary trends there. The prospect for slower economic growth has caused the Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging Markets Index (MSEMI), a measure of stocks in 25 developing countries, to fall some 25 percent since its peak on May 8. In a similar vein, the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index of European equities, has tumbled 12% from near a five-year high reached May 9. And, while the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has shown relative stability in comparison, the TA-25 index has still lost 8% since closing at a record high of 898.98 on May 16. "Looking at the markets, people are avoiding risk right now," said Avi Weinreb, a trader at Clal Finance Batucha Investment Management Ltd. "We're seeing the trend that investors, and especially foreign investors, are selling in the Israeli market and anything to do with emerging markets." Referring to the Strauss-Elite decision, Weinreb explained that in such a climate it is not worthwhile for companies to float their stock because they can receive a much stronger valuation when the market picks up. Strauss-Elite said Thursday it has delayed its plans to raise $150 million in a public offering on the London Stock Exchange, which it had announced just two weeks ago. "As long as the instability in global capital markets continues, we will delay the process for raising funds abroad," the company said in a statement. "We will examine the appropriate time to pursue our plans." The announcement marks the second time this week an Israeli company has suspended its plans to raise funds in London. Tel Aviv-based property developer Africa Israel Investments Ltd. said on June 11 that it would delay a sale of shares in its European unit until the end of the year. Weinreb said that given the position of the market, similar announcements are expected in the near future. "Underwriters in London are advising people that this is not the right time to go ahead with such a flotation," he said. "You may have a whole wave of announcements about companies canceling offerings." He noted that planned offerings that could fall prey to market slumps include another one by Africa Israel to float its Russian interests in London and an offering by the Delek Group, which is looking to spin off its Delek Belron unit. Meanwhile, as markets showed some resilience Thursday with the TA-25 adding 0.6% and the MSEMI recording its second consecutive day of gains rising 2% in late afternoon trade in London, Weinreb said that this was not any indication of a recovery. "The only firm indication of a recovery is when we trade on very strong volumes and we haven't seen that yet," he said. "The hope is that we have hit the bottom in Israel and while the market is up again today, volumes are quite light. It's really a case of cautious optimism." Bloomberg contributed to this report.