BiondVax Pharmaceuticals CEO admits to insider trading, to pay 70,000 shekel fine

Dr. Ron Babecoff, co-founder and CEO of BiondVax Pharmaceuticals, admitted to providing insider information to an investor in the company and will pay a 70,000 shekel ($19,300) fine, in accordance with a plea bargain he recently signed with the State Prosecutor’s Office. In return, Babecoff will not face prosecution. Babecoff also undertook to introduce a program for enforcement within the company, setting guidelines for compliance with securities law and maintaining proper corporate governance. The company, which is traded on the Nasdaq, is in the midst of phase 3 trials for a universal flu vaccine it is developing. The trial involves 9,630 participants over the age of 50 in Europe. Israel Securities Authority agents arrested Babecoff in March 2016 after finding that in 2015 he told an investor about progress in negotiations with a U.S. government research institute about a joint experiment on the vaccination it was developing. (Jasmin Gueta)

Bank regulator extends benefits to encourage downsizing

Israel’s Banks Supervisor Hedva Bar informed the banks recently that she is extending the option of taking efficiency measures by reducing their workforces and moving their headquarters out of Tel Aviv through the end of 2019. The steps are estimated to cost a total of 1 billion shekels ($275 million), so as an incentive the supervisor eased accounting rules. The breaks let them write off these expenses for many years without hurting their capital adequacy ratios, thus enabling them to continue growing increase activity and paying investor dividends. Bar launched her first efficiency plan in 2016 and her plan for real estate breaks for banks in 2017 to encourage early retirement plans, but the banks started years earlier to cut costs by closing branches, reducing personnel, selling real estate, changing wage conditions and going digital. The five major banks thus cut personnel by nearly 6,000 to 42,470 from 2011 to 2017. 
(Michael Rochvarger)

Zim is sinking: Shipper loses $35 million in Q2

Zim Integrated Shipping Services continues to sink into debt. The company, run by Eli Glickman, reported losing $35 million in the second quarter of 2018, compared to a profit of $332,000 in the parallel 2017 quarter. Zim’s revenue increased 8% for the quarter compared to the parallel, totaling $803 million. The main reason for the growth was a 17% rise in the number of containers it shipped, to 772,000 units. That gain was offset by a 10% in the average shipping fee it collected, compared to the parallel quarter, to $907 per container. Zim’s quarterly gross profit plummeted 70% to $21 million, compared to 2017. The sharp drop in profitability stems from a 16% increase in quarterly operating expenses to $757 million, including a substantial rise in fuel costs and a 21% rise in ship leasing costs. Likewise, the company had to pay an extra $16 million in port usage fees. Kenon Holdings has a 30% stake in Zim. (Yoram Gabison)

Gilead Science’s experimental ebola treatment approved for use in Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has approved four more experimental treatments against the deadly Ebola virus, including one by Israel’s Gilead Sciences, the health ministry said as it raced to contain an outbreak in its violence-torn east. Health authorities last week started administering the U.S.-developed mAb114 treatment to Ebola patients, the first time such a treatment had been used against an active outbreak. The health ministry said in a daily bulletin late Tuesday that the 10 patients who have received mAb114 since August 11 have experienced a “positive evolution,” but the outbreak has continued to grow. The four additional treatments approved by Congo’s ethics committee included Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences. Remdesivir was administered to its first patient in the town of Beni on Tuesday, who is doing well, the ministry said in its bulletin. There have been 59 deaths and 75 confirmed cases of Ebola since last month. (Reuters)

TASE ends mixed, dragged down by Teva Pharmaceuticals and Fox Group

Trade was mixed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Wednesday, with the blue chip TA-35 index dipping 0.1% but the broader TA-125 climbing 0.6%. Teva Pharmaceuticals dragged down the market a second day in a row, falling 3.5% and wiping out the sharp gain last weekend after it received FDA approval to sell a generic version of Mylan’s EpiPen. SodaStream was the most traded stock, slipping 0.4% on turnover of 128 million shekels, just days after PepsiCo Inc. announced it would buy the maker of home carbonation devices for $3.2 billion. Shares of Clal Beverages sank 3.5% after the company reported a 38% decline in its net quarter profits. Fox Group shares tanked 5.7% in wake of a television report that its CEO had sexually harassed a number of women (see story above). In foreign exchange trading, the dollar fell to a rate of 3.63 shekels per dollar while the euro rose to a rate of 4.22 shekels per euro. (TheMarker)

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