TASE to launch biomed, energy, hi-tech indexes

TASE to launch biomed, e

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange plans to position itself as a center for hi-tech companies by introducing new indexes for biomed, energy and communications. In so doing, it hopes to attract more listings, create niche markets and lure foreign investors, TASE CEO Ester Levanon said Monday. "We will probably not be a global financial center, but we can be a center for all kinds of hi-tech companies," she said at a year-end conference in Tel Aviv. "The advantage of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is that we are located in a hi-tech hub. Hi-tech is our bread and butter. "We probably are not going to be another Nasdaq, attracting large companies like Nokia to list on our market, but we believe we can offer a good infrastructure for smaller hi-tech companies to raise easy money and be an alternative market to the more expensive market in the US." Out of the 605 companies currently listed on the TASE, 102 are hi-tech and 38 are biomed. The TASE plans to introduce a new index for biomed companies in the first quarter of 2010, Levanon said. "There are almost 40 biotechnology companies with a good market value, and the index will bring better exposure to this market," she said. The TASE plans to modify its listing requirements to allow financial statements to be filed in English and add local analysts to cover more companies, Levanon said. The exchange was also considering making changes to quarterly reporting requirements, she said. There are 50 dual-listed companies on the exchange that report in Hebrew and English. Options trading on single stocks, which was introduced in March, has had very low trading, Rina Shapir, of the TASE's trading and clearing department, said at the conference. In March, the TASE allowed Israel Chemicals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi to have their options traded. "We saw that this is not enough," Shapir said. "It is all a question of marketing. We intend to encourage and increase the number of market makers and drive the market with the four current options before deciding to launch more. We looked at marketing models around the world and are formulating a new model for market making, including incentives to encourage deals, which will be presented at the beginning of 2010." Levanon said the Tel Aviv 25 Index rose 73 percent in 2009, outperforming emerging-market indices around the world. "If 2008 was the most difficult year, we could have never expected 2009 to turn out to be such a challenging and surprising year," she said. "From the position we are currently in, it appears that it isn't possible to rise like this again, or much higher, although we could be wrong. "One of the very surprising things this year was the increase in bond issues. Growth is one thing we did not expect. It was actually the banks that got started, which is somehow ironic since the banks were not always enthusiastic about the bond market. After the banks came the large companies, and after them, the other companies. We can say that we are now almost back to the old days and 'business as usual' with a lot of offerings," Levanon said.