Business in Brief: February 1

BoI: Bank fraud drops sharply; housing demand up 13% in December; Microsoft Israel to recruit 100 for R&D.

Housing 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Housing 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BoI: Bank fraud drops sharply • By ERAN PEER
The report states that Embezzlement by bank employees fell to NIS 5 million in 2010 from NIS 47m. in 2009 and NIS 33m. in 2008, according to the Bank of Israel’s annual embezzlement report. Supervisor of Banks David Zaken submitted the report to the Knesset Finance Committee on Sunday.
Damage to bank customers from embezzlement totaled NIS 2.9m. in 2010, while compensation to customers for embezzlement totaled NIS 1.4m. The difference is due to the fact that some cases are still being dealt with.
“In cases handled by the Banking Supervision Department, no material findings were discovered, such as broad harm to customers, or major control flaws that could jeopardize a bank’s stability,” the report said.
“Nothing was found to indicate a widespread problem in the banking system.”
There were 20 cases of embezzlement in 2010, and five cases caused 78 percent of the total damage, the report said.
Housing demand up 13% in December • By EINAT PAZ-FRANKEL
Housing demand rose 13 percent in December 2010, compared with November, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Monday. Housing demand rose 4% in 2010, compared with 2009, it said.
Demand for new homes totaled 3,385 in December, of which 1,824 homes were sold. The rest were homes under construction, or were not available for sale (mostly build-your-own home projects or homes for buyers’ groups). New-home sales fell 4% from the 1,901 homes sold by contractors in November, while 21,498 new homes (both privately and publicly built) were sold in 2010, 10% more than the 19,975 new homes sold in 2009.
Last week, the Finance Ministry reported that the number of home sales had fallen 6.7% in December, although they rose 7.3% for the whole year.
Demand for new homes rose 118% in Beersheba and 82% in Kfar Saba, while demand fell 37% in Ramat Gan and 20% in Netanya.
Petah Tikva had the highest demand for new homes in 2010, at 2,453 apartments, of which 2,268 were sold. It was followed by Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon (where sales almost doubled compared with 2009), Netanya, Rishon Lezion, Kfar Saba, Ashdod, Rehovot and Beersheba.
Microsoft Israel to recruit 100 for R&D • By TZAHI HOFFMAN
Microsoft Israel’s R&D center plans to hire 100 new employees for cloud computing projects, Microsoft Israel R&D center president Moshe Lichtman announced Monday at the company’s annual press conference.
Microsoft Israel’s R&D center has 600 employees.
“Cloud computing is at the center of our vision,” Lichtman said. “About 70 percent of the center’s development activity is focused on cloud computing. This year we will complete development of the first versions of 11 products that will be launched on the global market.
Just over a year ago, we launched a free security product. The product has had 100 million downloads in the past year, and it has the second-largest share of the global market for free products. This product was developed entirely in Israel, and it will stay free.”
Microsoft Israel’s R&D center has developed technologies for Microsoft Corporation’s mobile search engine, Bing Mobile. A feature developed in Israel enables checkin via Facebook, Foursquare and Messenger. It also makes it possible to receive memos when the user is nearing a geographical point, such as a particular store.