Business in Brief: January 31

Gasoline prices to hit new record; Ma’ariv to become freesheet; Cabinet okays alternative energy plan; Azrieli buys Houston financial center.

311_gasoline pumps (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_gasoline pumps
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Gasoline prices to hit new record • By KOBY YESHAYAHOU
The government-controlled price of gasoline will go up to a new record at midnight on January 31. The price of self-service 95 octane gasoline will go up 1.68 percent to NIS 7.26 per liter from NIS 7.14 this month.
The NIS 0.13 per liter fee for full service is unchanged.
The Transport Ministry attributes the increase to a 1.39% ($0.01 per liter) rise in the price of CIF La Vera trade prices for fuels in the Mediterranean basin, which comprises 32% of the cost of fuel in Israel. The shekeldollar exchange rate rose 2.9% in January, also contributing NIS 0.12 per liter, plus VAT, to the rise in price of gasoline.
MKs are trying to reverse the hike in excise on fuel, which came into effect on January 1, but the Finance Ministry opposes this effort. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee will discuss the matter this week.
Ma’ariv to become freesheet • By LIOR AVERBACH
Zaki Rakib, the new controlling shareholder of Hebrew daily Ma’ariv, plans to abolish within weeks its business and magazine supplements, which will become part of the news pages.
The measures were planned a long time ago, and are part of the recently completed redesign of the paper, which will be launched in its new format in a few days.
The daily paper’s Sports and Style supplements will remain as separate supplements.
The measures were the first steps toward a general restructuring, which will emphasize the paper’s weekend edition over its daily edition. The daily edition will be distributed for free, and could be eliminated altogether in favor of the paper’s website and planned tablet edition as part of a transition to the new media world. The consolidation already carried out included the firing of several employees, and the upcoming consolidation will reportedly involve more layoffs.
Cabinet okays alternative energy plan
The cabinet on Sunday approved a program to develop alternative-energy technologies for transportation aimed at reducing global dependence on oil and improving the environment.
The government will invest NIS 1.5 billion over the next 10 years in the program, the prime minister’s office said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday.
“The addiction to oil leads to dependence by the Western world on the oil-producing countries and harms the environment,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the statement. “It also has significant implications for Israel.” Under the program, created by a team headed by Eugene Kandel, the head of the National Economic Council, the government will offer incentives for investment in developing alternative- energy technologies for transportation, and will boost investment in this area. The government will also increase cooperation with foreign governments and Israeli and international companies.
• Bloomberg
Azrieli buys Houston financial center • By AVI SHAULY
Azrieli Group Ltd. has bought the Galleria Financial Center in Houston for $176 million. The properties were bought through subsidiary Three Galleria Office Buildings LLC, in which Azrieli owns a 90% stake.
Azrieli did not disclose the name of the seller “Azrieli Group focuses its strategic investments in the Israeli economy. However, when global business opportunities arise that meet the company’s strict standards for income-producing deals, we seize them,” said Azrieli Group president Menachem Einan. “This deal in Houston follows previous transactions in the city, and is an excellent opportunity for us to continue to benefit from investment in one of the most stable and fastest growing areas of the US.”
The three office buildings comprising the Galleria Financial Center have 99,000 square meters of space altogether. They are part of the Galleria Mall, hotel, residential and parking complex. Tenants include Merrill Lynch, Citigroup Inc., UBS AG, and energy companies.
Azrieli estimate rental income for 2011 at $14 m.
The 2.4-million square foot Galleria Mall is not part of the deal. Azrieli said that it has a commitment from a US financial institution for a $130m. loan to finance the purchase. The company owns the 50,000-square meter Northchase Plaza and stakes in the One Riverway and Three Riverway office buildings in Houston.