Business in Brief: February 16

Cyprus: Offshore gas drilling this year; Israel among world smartphone leaders; NICE to buy CyberTech for $60m.;Meir Dagan to head Israel Ports.

Offshore Gas Drilling 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Offshore Gas Drilling 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Cyprus: Offshore gas drilling this year
NICOSIA (AP) – Drilling to tap potential natural-gas deposits off Cyprus’s southeastern coast could begin before the end of the year, Cyprian Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides said Tuesday. But possible delays due to “the European Union and some licenses we require” could push the start date back to “very early in 2012,” he said.
Paschalides made his remarks after talks with visiting officials from Texas-based Noble Energy Inc. Cyprus licensed Noble Energy in 2007 to explore a 1,250- square-mile area situated near a recently discovered field off Israel that contains more than 450 billion cubic meters (15.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas.
Israel among world smartphone leaders • By NOA PARAG and TZAHI HOFFMAN
Israel is No. 26 in the world in smartphone use, with 5 million users and average annual growth of 18 percent, according to a report by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers analyst Mary Meeker. The number of smartphone users (3G and above) in the world, as of the third quarter of 2010, was 726 million, with annual growth of 35%, the report said. The US has the largest number of smartphone users, at 141 million, followed by Japan with 109 million.
Over the next five years, the mobile trend around the world is expected to grow 26%, the report said. Sixty percent of the use of smartphones is described as new activities for the users, such as maps, cellular games and social networks.
NICE to buy CyberTech for $60m. • Globes correspondent
NICE Systems Ltd. will acquire Dutch CyberTech International BV, a developer of voice logging, compliance recording solutions and value-added applications, for $60 million, NICE announced Tuesday. NICE said the acquisition would broaden its product line for financial institutions, strengthen its commitment to the small- and mid-sized business sector and add to its public-safety solutions. The acquisition will also boost NICE’s presence in European, Middle Eastern and Asian markets and provide a product to meet the needs of emerging markets, it said.
NICE reported that fourth-quarter revenue had risen 14.8 percent to $186.9 million, from $163m. for the corresponding quarter. Non-GAAP net profit rose to $32.7m., from $28.6m. for the corresponding quarter.
For 2010, revenue rose 18.1% to $695.3m., from $588.6m. in 2009. Non-GAAP net profit rose to $112.1m., from $96m. in 2009.
Meir Dagan to head Israel Ports • Globes correspondent
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan will be appointed chairman of Israel Ports Development & Assets Company Ltd. and be responsible for implementing a national transportation plan, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced Monday. Dagan will replace Yiftah Ron-Tal, who has been appointed chairman of Israel Electric Corporation.
Report: Israeli firms eye Greek port Thessaloniki
Port Authority is in talks with seven Israeli cruise and cargo shipping companies over possible maritime links, Greek newspaper Naftemporiki reported.
Mano Maritime Ltd., Caspi Cruises and Allalouf & Co. Shipping Ltd. are among the companies involved, it said.
Greece and Cyprus are attracting more interest as tourism destinations for Israelis because of political unrest in North Africa and poor relations with Turkey, the newspaper said. As many as 800,000 Israeli tourists might visit Greece in 2012, the report said, citing Flying Carpets Ltd., Israel’s largest tour operator. • Bloomberg