El Al to pay first dividend in five years [p.16]

El Al Israel Airlines will pay a dividend of between 20 and 40 percent of its 2005 profits to shareholders, the company said, marking its first distribution in over five years. The airline said the payout would be made from the combined profits of its regular operations, without taking into account any one-time gains. The dividend would be paid during the 2006 fiscal year, the company said without providing a specific date for the payout. El Al is due to release its end of year results towards the end of February, and was expected to build on the $63.6 million net profit it reported for the first nine months of the year, which rose despite a 43% increase in aviation fuel from the beginning of the year. El Al CEO Haim Romano said last month that the rise in tourism to Israel has been the driving factor in boosting profits this year. Yisca Erez, an analyst at Clal Finance Betucha covering El Al, forecasts profits to reach $101m. for the full year. That means the dividend would range between $20m. and $40m., or 4 to 8 cents per share. That would translate into an $8m. to $16m. payment to Knafaim, which increased its stake to 40% from 22% in December 2004, paying the government $21.7m. for its stake. Following news of the dividend, El Al shares rose 1% to NIS 3.82 in Tel Aviv Thursday. Parent company Knafaim, however, gave up 1% to NIS 49.72.