Business in Brief: December 20

IEC’s Lasker resigns; natural gas use to double in decade; Leviev’s Moscow mall opening delayed; Africa-Israel CFO resigns.

IEC’s Lasker resigns • By AMIRAM BARKAT
Israel Electric Corporation CEO Amos Lasker has announced that he will step down after the financial report for 2010 is presented at the end of March 2011, according to information obtained by Globes.
Reports suggest that there are serious tensions in the relationship between Lasker and the new chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal. Even so, Lasker and Ron-Tal have been working together and Ron-Tal asked Lasker to stay on after he announced his resignation.
Talks to reform the IEC have been deadlocked recently and this has made Lasker’s job as CEO more difficult.
Natural gas use to double in decade • By KOBY YESHAYAHOU
Israel consumed 5.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2010, representing an increase of 23% compared with the previous year 2009, the National Infrastructures Ministry reported on Sunday.
The ministry expects natural gas use to double by 2020.
Yam Tethys, owned by Delek Group Ltd., and Noble Energy Inc., supplied over 60 percent of the natural gas and Egypt’s East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG) supplied the rest. The Israel Electric Corporation consumed 90% of the gas. The rest was consumed by the Paz Oil Company Ltd. Paz Ashdod Refinery; the Ashkelon desalination plant, partly owned by Delek, Israel Chemicals Ltd’s Dead Sea Works; and IDB Holding Corp. Ltd. units Hadera Paper Ltd. and Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises Ltd.
The National Infrastructures Ministry said that development of Israel’s natural gas infrastructure would continue in 2011, and it expects natural gas consumption to reach 6 billion cubic meters. Most of the increase will follow the extension of the natural gas pipeline to the north and hook-ups to customers there, including Oil Refineries Ltd. and IEC’s power plants in Haifa Bay and Alon Tavor.
The ministry expects great change in Israel’s energy market over the coming years, as industrial customers switch to gas from current fuels, and the newly discovered offshore Tamar gas field, partly owned by Delek and Noble Energy, comes on line.
Itamar, Hoffmann-La Roche sign deal • By GLOBES’ CORRESPONDENT
Itamar Medical Ltd. has signed an agreement with F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. to develop a version of Itamar’s EndoPat non-invasive cardiovascular diagnostic device for the Swiss pharmaceutical company to use in animals, which is crucial for advanced trials of drug development.
Itamar Medical will develop a customized version of the EndoPAT over three years at a cost of €1.6 million, of which Roche will fund €1.35m. Roche has the right to review and decide on stages of development of the device and will pay the balance of the financing. Itamar Medical will keep the intellectual property rights of the device, except for certain components that Roche will supply.
Itamar Medical and Roche Products Ltd. have terminated a separate agreement, signed in March. Itamar Medical earned $373,000 under this deal, much of it already received.
Africa-Israel CFO resigns • By KOBY YESHAYAHOU
Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. CFO Ron Fainaro has resigned. Fainaro, 43, took up his post in 2007, and was with the company during a difficult period. No date has been set for the resignation to come into effect, and Africa-Israel will announce this later.
In August 2009, Africa-Israel, controlled by chairman Lev Leviev, announced that it would seek a debt settlement, after the company’s share price lost over 90% of its value over three years, due to difficulties in the US, East European, and Russian real estate markets.
In August 2010, Fainaro received a NIS 1.25 million bonus for his efforts in stabilizing the company during the tough times and reaching the debt settlement.
A source at Africa-Israel told Globes that Fainaro was leaving to “pursue new directions.”
Leviev’s Moscow mall opening delayed • By HILLEL KOREN
Lev Leviev’s Russia mall project failed to open its doors in the first week of December despite repeated promises in notices to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and in financial reports by Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. and its Russian development arm, AFI Development plc.
One of the reasons for delay is that no permit has yet been received from the Moscow municipality. The delay means that the Mall of Russia will not be open for this year’s Christmas shopping season.
On July 12, AFI Development said that the Mall of Russia project would open in the first week of December.
The company added that the mall was 70-75% let, and that most of stores would begin operations during the first quarter of 2011. Africa-Israel explicitly said in its financial report for the third quarter that the Mall of Russia would open in December.