Fortnightly, 18 September 2017

Fortnightly, 18 September 2017

September 19, 2017


18 September 2017
27 Elul 5777
27 Dhul Hijjah 1438




1.1  Israeli Government to Streamline Business Licensing
1.2  Dr. Ami Appelbaum Appointed Chief Scientist
1.3  Ministry of Finance to Cancel Customs Duty on Baby-Care Products


2.1  Frutarom Acquires Control of the Fragrances Company Turpaz
2.2  EL AL Israel Airlines & ViaSat Bring In-flight Wi-Fi Innovation to New Boeing 787 Dreamliner Aircraft
2.3  Canon Marketing Japan to Resell BriefCam Syndex Software
2.4  Sisram – the First Israeli Company to Announce a Proposed Listing Hong Kong Stock Exchange
2.5  StageOne Ventures Closes $110 Million 3rd Venture Capital Fund for Early Stage Israel-Related Startups
2.6  SIGA Raises $3.5 Million from Canadian Venture Capital Fund
2.7  Fox Signs Urban Outfitters Israel Franchise Deal
2.8  Talkspace’s Series C Round Takes in $31 Million, Will Expand Online Therapy
2.9  Axonius Raises $4 Million
2.10  Hyundai Motor, Technion and KAIST Commit to Jointly Research
2.11  Hainan Airways Launches Tel Aviv-Shanghai Flights
2.12  Mazor Robotics Announces Closing of the Third Tranche Equity Investment


3.1  VOP CZ and NIMR Showcase Winterized AJBAN 440A Light Armored Vehicle for Europe


4.1  Technion & Chicago’s Current Sign Agreement
4.2  Dubai Awards $3.8 Billion Deal for Final Phase of Giant Solar Park


5.1  Lebanon’s Trade Deficit Rose by 1.39% to $9.34 Billion by July 2017
5.2  Number of Lebanese Tourists Reaches its Highest Level in 7 Years
5.3  Total Number of Lebanese Registered New Cars Witness a Slight Increase

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.4  GCC Economic Growth Forecast to Strengthen from 2018
5.5  U.S. State Department Approves $3.8 Billion F-16V & F-16V Upgrade Sale to Bahrain
5.6  UAE Finalizes Plans for Start of New Tax System
5.7  UAE’s Non-Oil Foreign Trade Rises 3.2% to $109 Billion
5.8  New Orders Boost Saudi Private Sector Growth in August

♦♦North Africa

5.9  Egypt’s Annual Urban Inflation Eases To 31.9% in Augusth
5.10  Remittances from Expatriate Egyptians at $14.5 Billion Since Currency Float Began
5.11  Russia to Supply Nearly 50 MiG-29 Fighter Jets to Egypt
5.12  Moroccan Industrial, Energy and Mining Production Increases 1.7% in 2017


6.1  Turkey’s Current Account Deficit Widens in July
6.2  Turkey’s Machinery Exports Hit $9.4 Billion in 8 Months
6.3  Turkey’s Unemployment Rate Steady at 10.2% in June
6.4  Greek PM Tsipras Says Creditor Supervision of Economy to End in 2018



7.1  Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year Begins 20 September
7.2  Fast of Gedaliya Marked on 16 September
7.3  Yom Kippur – Holiest Day in the Jewish Calendar – Falls on 29/30 September
7.4  Muhammad Most Popular Baby Name in Israel
7.5  For First Time, Grand Tour Cycling Race to Start in Israel


7.6  Moroccan Universities Rank Low Internationally
7.7  Egypt’s Public Universities Start Academic Year With New Tradition of Saluting the Flag
7.8  Tunisia’s Parliament Backs Chahed’s New Government


8.1  Medtronic to Set Up Israeli R&D Centers
8.2  Tikcro Technologies Announces Full Human CTLA-4 Blocking Antibodies
8.3  Gardia Medical Demonstrates Enhanced Safety in Lower Extremity Interventions
8.4  Flying SpArk Joins IKEA’s Start-up Accelerator
8.5  Neusoft Medical Partners with DiA for Cardiac Automated Tools
8.6  FDA Grants Orphan Drug Status to Cellect’s ApoGraft for Acute GvHD & Chronic GvHD
8.7  ApiFix Signs Distribution Agreement in Canada
8.8  Pluristem Awarded $8.7 Million to Support Phase III Femoral Neck Fracture Trial by EU
8.9  CPI Applies for Patent for Sensitivity Tests of Cannabinoids on Tumor Biopsies & CTCs
8.10  Teva Announces Sale of PARAGARD to CooperSurgical
8.11  CollPlant Signs Definitive Agreement for $5 Million Private Placement with US Investor
8.12  MyndYou Receives Funding From U.S. Investors
8.13  Aspect Imaging Unveils Soft Tissue Contrast Capabilities for Its Compact MRI
8.14  MedReleaf Collaboration & Investment in Cannabis Grow Lighting Firm Flora Fotonica


9.1  Technion Celebrates Opening of New Cornell Tech Campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island
9.2  ECI Improves Efficiency of Smaller Edge and Metro Aggregation Optical Networks
9.3  Pointer Telocation to Supply Connected Car Solution with a Leading Car Distributor in Israel
9.4  GPSdome Starts Product Delivery to Autonomous Cars
9.5  Datumate Recognized as Promising Construction Technology Solution Provider for 2017
9.6  Foresight Completes a Pilot Project with One of China’s Top Three Car Manufacturers
9.7  CyberArk Launches Open Source Secrets Management Solution for DevOps
9.8  Mellanox and Accelink Partner to Provide 100Gb/s PSM4 Ethernet Transceivers
9.9  Renovo & Argus Deliver First Cyber Secure Vehicles for Automated Mobility on Demand
9.10  Portugal Telecom Selects AudioCodes’ SIP Trunking Solutions for its All-IP Network Transformation Project
9.11  AdaSky Launches Thermal FIR Sensing Solution to Give Vehicles 24/7 Vision
9.12  Inuitive Introduces NU4000, an Advanced 3D Imaging, Deep Learning and Computer Vision Processor
9.13  Mobileye and Munich Re, US Announce Collaboration to Reduce Automotive Collisions
9.14  ASOCS Launches On-Premise Mobile Cloud for Enterprises
9.15  Elbit Systems’ U.S. Subsidiary to Provide In-Fill Radar & Tower System to U.S. Customs
9.16  CHILI CINEMA Turns to Beamr Optimizer to Reduce Bitrate and Improve Video Streaming Quality
9.17  OriginGPS Demos IoT Device Developed in 6 Weeks
9.18  Minerva Launches Enterprise-Grade Malware Vaccination Solution to Immunize Endpoints
9.19  PacketLight Launches PL-2000DC Delivering 1.6T DCI Capacity Fiber Networking Solution
9.20  Epsilor to Introduce Soldier Wearable Power and Communication System
9.21  SuperCom Awarded 8-Year Contract for ePassport and National ID Card System in Iceland
9.22  Daimler Trucks Teams Up With Innovation Leader for Electric Charging StoreDot
9.23  Renovo & Argus to Deliver First Cyber Secure Vehicles for Automated Mobility on Demand


10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rates Rises by 0.3% During August
10.2  Foreign Investment in Israel Increases by 7%
10.3  Israel Collects Record Tax Revenues in August
10.4  Tourist Entries into Israel Increase by 20% in August


11.1  ISRAEL: Profile Supported by Economic Resilience, Effective Governance & Falling Debt Ratios
11.2  ISRAEL: Israel’s Foreign Trade, Export & Import of Goods – August 2017
11.3  SYRIA: Is Reconstruction Syria’s Next Battleground?
11.4  GCC: Diplomatic Row is Credit Negative for All GCC Members; Qatar & Bahrain Most Exposed
11.5  EGYPT: Egypt Clears Multibillion-Dollar FX Backlog
11.6  TURKEY: Turkey Aims to Select Tank-Maker in 2018
11.7  TURKEY: Turkey – the New Address for Brazilian Butt Lifts, Thick Hair and Shiny Teeth


1.1  Israeli Government to Streamline Business Licensing

The draft of a reform of business licensing procedures being formulated in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Economy and Industry, and the Ministry of the Interior.  It will allow more than one third of businesses in Israel will receive business licenses within 21 days in a fast track procedure.  At present, obtaining a business license involves months of waiting, uncertainty, bureaucracy and much running about.  Many business owners end up operating without a license, becoming unwilling criminals.

Under the reform, which will shortly be brought before the government, the owner of a business classed as low-risk will obtain a license on the basis of a signed declaration that the business’s plan meets the criteria.  After approving the plan and inspecting the declaration, the licensing authority will issue a license within 21 days.  The new regulations will affect some 150,000 businesses in Israel.  At present, the law makes no distinction between a hairdresser and a factory handling dangerous materials.  It is estimated that about one third of businesses operating in Israel can be classified as low-risk – some 55,000 businesses.  About another 70,000 businesses (47% of the total) can be classed as medium-risk, with the remaining 25,000 (18%) being high-risk.  Under the proposed reform, a medium-risk business will receive a license within 45 days.

Examples of low-risk businesses are shops, kiosks, dental labs, recreation sites and taxis.  Medium-risk businesses will include swimming pools, electronic device factories, purveyors of intoxicating beverages, garages and car parks of over 500 square meters that serve commercial centers.  To run the processing of declarations and issuing of licenses for low- and medium-risk businesses, the state will authorize private sector entities or local government agencies that will undergo special training.  An online system will be developed for submission of applications and issuing of licenses.  (Globes 14.09)

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1.2  Dr. Ami Appelbaum Appointed Chief Scientist

Dr. Ami Appelbaum will be the next chief scientist at the Ministry of Economics and Industry and chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority.  Globes reported that Minister of Economics & Industry Cohen accepted the recommendation of the appointments committee, which selected Appelbaum.  Appelbaum is president of KLA Tencor Israel, the Israeli subsidiary of a company headquartered in Silicon Valley that develops and produces systems for controlling semiconductor production processes.  The company’s annual sales are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  KLA Tencor Israel has hundreds of employees in its plant in Migdal HaEmek.  Appelbaum’s previous position was acting general manager of automation and robotics at KLA Tencor Israel’s parent company.  He managed the company’s operational system for eight years while living in California.  Appelbaum was awarded a PhD in 1983 by the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa for his research on semiconductors in the university’s materials engineering department.  (Globes 11.09)

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1.3  Ministry of Finance to Cancel Customs Duty on Baby-Care Products

The Ministry of Finance plans to abolish or lower customs duties on baby-care products (other than diapers) imported into Israel.  In addition, customs duties on spectacles and contact lenses will be abolished.  The rate of duty on most of these items is currently 12%.  The move will cut tens of millions of shekels annually from state revenues.  (Globes 17.09)

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2.1  Frutarom Acquires Control of the Fragrances Company Turpaz

Frutarom Industries signed an agreement for the purchase of 51% of the shares of the Israeli company Turpaz Perfume and Flavor Extracts at an overall cash-free debt-free company value of approx. $15.1 million.  The consideration paid by Frutarom for the shares is approx. approx. $4.1 million and in addition Frutarom injected an investment of approx. $7.6 million into the company.  The agreement includes an option for the purchase of the remaining balance of Turpaz shares starting about four years from the date of completion of the transaction at a price based on Turpaz’s business performance during the two years leading up to the date of notification on exercising the option.  The transaction was completed upon signing and financed through bank debt.

According to Turpaz’s management reports, its sales turnover for the 12 months ending in June 2017 totaled approx. $6.2 million and it exhibited higher profitability margins than Frutarom’s Flavors division into which it will be consolidated.

Turpaz began its activities in 1970 and engages mainly in the development, production and marketing of fragrance solutions.  Turpaz has an R&D, manufacturing and marketing site in Israel and recently opened a center for R&D, production, sales and marketing in New Jersey.  Turpaz has a diverse portfolio of products and solutions that are based on considerable know-how and experience, and a broad customer base, and has exhibited impressive growth rates in recent years while improving its profitability margin.  Frutarom decided to launch a strategic move of developing global activity in fragrances, with emphasis on emerging markets with high growth rates.  The Turpaz acquisition joins Frutarom’s small existing fragrances businesses situated mainly in India, in Africa and in Latin America.

Haifa’s Frutarom is a leading global company operating in the global flavors and natural fine ingredients markets.  Frutarom has significant production and development centers on all six continents and markets and sells over 60,000 products to more than 30,000 customers in over 150 countries.  Frutarom’s products are intended mainly for the food and beverages, flavor and fragrance extracts, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, health food, functional food, food additives and cosmetics industries.  (Frutarom 06.09)

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2.2  EL AL Israel Airlines & ViaSat Bring In-flight Wi-Fi Innovation to New Boeing 787 Dreamliner Aircraft

Carlsbad, California’s ViaSat, a global broadband services and technology company, announced long-time airline partner, EL AL Israel Airlines, has selected the ViaSat in-flight internet system to power the Airline’s high-speed onboard Wi-Fi experience across all of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.  EL AL Israel Airlines recently announced the purchase of 16 new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft as part of its focus on customer service and innovation.  The Airline is committed to provide its passengers with a high quality of service experience and a ‘Home Away from Home’ feeling.  ViaSat’s in-flight internet equipment is optimized to take full advantage of both satellite systems and is the only equipment today that can offer passengers the highest-speed Ka-band connections when flying on EL AL’s TransAtlantic routes.

EL AL Israel Airlines, Israel’s national airline, established in 1948 alongside the State of Israel, offers more non-stop flights than any other airline to/from Israel.  EL AL flies to 36 destinations non-stop from Israel and serves hundreds of other destinations throughout the world via partnerships with many other carriers.  EL AL embodies Israel’s values of innovation and caring and is known for its genuine Israeli hospitality.  In 2017 EL AL has commenced to receive the 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, renewing its fleet of aircraft.  (El Al 06.09)

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2.3  Canon Marketing Japan to Resell BriefCam Syndex Software

BriefCam has signed a reseller agreement with Canon Marketing Japan.  BriefCam’s award-winning Syndex products are deployed in over 40 countries and utilized by the world’s leading law enforcement, public safety, government and business organizations to transform their raw video data into actionable intelligence.  Canon Marketing Japan (MJ) is the exclusive sales and marketing arm of Canon Inc. in Japan.  By adding BriefCam Syndex to its portfolio, Canon MJ can offer its customers a complete video surveillance solution comprising Network Cameras, Video Management and Recording (Milestone XProtect) and Video Content Analytics (BriefCam Syndex).  BriefCam Syndex will provide Canon MJ customers with the ability to review hours of video within minutes, rapidly pinpoint people and objects of interest, proactively receive real-time notifications of critical events and dynamically analyze key performance indicators.

Recognized as the de facto standard for video analytics solutions by hundreds of prestigious customers worldwide, BriefCam offers transformational video analytics solutions that prevent and solve security challenges for Federal Government, Security, Law Enforcement, Safe/Smart Cities, and Transportation Agencies across the globe, while providing F500 Enterprises, Healthcare and Educational Institutions with advanced capabilities to address safety, security and operational efficiency objectives.

Modi’in’s BriefCam is the industry’s leading provider of Video Synopsis solutions for rapid video review and search, real-time alerting and quantitative video insights.  By transforming raw video into actionable intelligence, BriefCam dramatically shorten the time-to-target for security threats while increasing safety and optimizing operations.  BriefCam Syndex products are deployed by law enforcement and public safety organizations, government and transportation agencies, major enterprises, healthcare and educational institutions, and local communities worldwide.  (BriefCam 06.09)

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2.4  Sisram – the First Israeli Company to Announce a Proposed Listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange

Sisram Medical announced the proposed listing of its shares on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (SEHK).  The Company will be the first Israeli company to be listed in Hong Kong.  Sisram plans to offer an aggregate of 110,000,000 shares (subject to the over-allotment option), consisting of 99,000,000 international offer shares (subject to reallocation and the over-allotment option) and 11,000,000 Hong Kong offer shares (subject to reallocation), at an indicative offer price range between HK$8.88 and HK$12.35 per share.

Sisram is the largest provider of energy-based medical aesthetic treatment systems in the PRC.  According to the Medical Insight Report, Sisram was ranked fifth globally in 2016 in terms of revenue derived from sales of energy-based medical aesthetic treatment systems.  Taking advantage of the global growth in the market of energy-based medical aesthetic treatment systems and an overall increase in discretionary income globally, the Company, as the leader in the aesthetic medical treatment system market, expected to continue capitalizing on the growth of this market by cooperation with the Controlling Shareholder, Fosun Pharma.  Besides, the Company also develops energy-based minimally invasive treatment system market segment, embracing the rapid growth in global energy-based vaginal rejuvenation treatment system.  Sisram Medical was incorporated in 2013 when Fosun Pharma acquired Alma Lasers.  Alma is a wholly-owned and principal operating subsidiary of Sisram.

Sisram Medical is a leading global provider of energy-based medical aesthetic treatment systems, with comprehensive in-house capability to design, develop and produce such systems, which often feature the Company’s innovative and proprietary technologies.  The Company has also been the largest provider of energy-based medical aesthetic treatment systems in the PRC market and one of the leaders in the medical aesthetic treatment system market globally, in terms of revenue in 2016, according to the Medical Insight Report.  The company sells its treatment systems in approximately 80 countries and jurisdictions worldwide.  Sisram, incorporated in 2013 in Israel, is a non-wholly owned subsidiary of Fosun Pharma, a leading healthcare group in China.  (Sisram Medical 05.09)

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2.5  StageOne Ventures Closes $110 Million 3rd Venture Capital Fund for Early Stage Israel-Related Startups

Herzliya Pituah’s StageOne Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focusing on Israel-related technology startups, announced the closure of its third venture capital fund, with $110 million in committed capital.  StageOne Ventures helps entrepreneurs traverse the Israel-Silicon Valley axis and build global businesses.  Stage One Venture Capital Fund III, L.P. (StageOne III), the firm’s largest fund to date, closed at $110m after an oversubscribed fundraising process in summer 2017.  StageOne III is backed primarily by StageOne’s existing LPs, with the addition of several prominent investors from Israel, USA and Europe.

StageOne focuses on ambitious deep-technology endeavors in B2B software and next-generation information technology infrastructure.  By leveraging wide global networks, multinational operational experience, and presence in both Israel and the Silicon Valley, StageOne’s team members dedicate themselves to turning the fund’s portfolio companies into global successes.  StageOne III will aim to invest in 15-18 companies, focusing on seed and series A rounds, with a typical initial investment size in the range between $500,000 and $3,000,000.  As artificial intelligence, deep learning, big data analytics, and advanced DevOps paradigms continue to impact multiple industries, StageOne Ventures partners with entrepreneurs who seek to harness transformative innovation to lead categories in enterprise software, cyber security, fintech, communication, and the future of transportation.

Venture capital funds managed by StageOne Ventures have invested in more than 30 companies to date.  The new fund follows StageOne II, a 2014 vintage fund, that currently boasts fourteen portfolio companies, including, Avanan,, DBmaestro, Minerva, Otonomo, and SafeDK, which have already raised significant subsequent rounds of financing from leading global investors.  StageOne’s first fund (StageOne I) has been fully invested, and had six exits including, among others, Guardium (acquired by IBM), Traffix (acquired by F5 Networks) and Octalica (acquired by Broadcom).  (StageOne 05.09)

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2.6  SIGA Raises $3.5 Million from Canadian Venture Capital Fund

Israeli cyber security company SIGA Data Security has raised $3.5 million from Canadian venture capital fund Awz Homeland Security.  Based in Ashkelon, SIGA has developed process anomaly detection and cyber security technologies for critical industrial control systems and critical infrastructure operations in the world of OT.  Unlike other solutions on the market that focus on analyzing digital packets, SigaGuard monitors electrical signals and reports to operators on the status of industrial end-devices such as generators, turbines, centrifuges, pumps, valves and more.  SigaGuard employs machine learning and behavioral analytics to detect anomalies in real-time, whether caused by a technical malfunction or a cyber-attack.  Awz has previously invested in Israeli cyber security company Octopus.

SIGA has previously secured seed money from the Office of the Chief Scientist of Israel in collaboration with Horizon GreenTech Ventures, a joint venture fund between Alstom (now General Electric) and Rotem Industries.  (Globes 07.09)

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2.7  Fox Signs Urban Outfitters Israel Franchise Deal

The first branch in Israel of Urban Outfitters will soon open in Israel.  Fox-Wizel signed three 10-year franchise agreements with the Urban group.  Fox will operate stores selling three brands in Israel: Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Free People, and will sell the brands in Fox’s virtual shopping mall, which is currently being set up.  Fox plans to establish a subsidiary to operate the brands in Israel.  The cost of the agreement in the first four years of the franchise is NIS 40 million.

Founded in 1970, Urban is a leading international retailer in fashion, accessories, home design, and other areas.  It operates in the US, Canada, and Europe under the Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Free People brands.  The company operates over 500 stores and 1,400 sales points worldwide.  Urban’s revenue totaled $3.5 billion in 2016, and its operating profit margin was 11% of sales.  Company headquarters are in Philadelphia.  (Globes 07.09)

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2.8  Talkspace’s Series C Round Takes in $31 Million, Will Expand Online Therapy

Online therapy company Talkspace is now flush with $31 million in new financing.  Tel Aviv’s Qumra Capital, a growth stage fund, led the Series C round and was joined by existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Spark Capital, SoftBank, Compound Ventures and FirstTime.  Talkspace plans on using the investment to accelerate its growth.  Talkspace raised its Series A round in 2015 and Series B round in 2016.  The company has now raised a total of $60 million in funding.  Talkspace says that clinical research has established that online therapy can be better than face-to-face, and that Talkspace clients have higher satisfaction compared to traditional therapy in areas concerning convenience, affordability and getting help when needed.  (Various 07.09)

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2.9  Axonius Raises $4 Million

Axonius announced the receipt of $4 million in seed financing with an investment from YL Ventures, with participation from Vertex Ventures and Emerge.  The new funding will finance the company’s mission to secure and manage the growing billions of connected devices in use by businesses by developing a platform that lets IT and security operations teams enable the agile and secure adoption and usage of the widest variety of current and future devices on the network.  The Axonius platform eliminates blind spots on the network and provides a single place to understand, manage and control the security of end user, compute and IoT devices.  By doing so, organizations using Axonius can more quickly and safely take advantage of the capabilities of new and existing networked devices in order to gain competitive advantage in their businesses.

Tel Aviv’s Axonius delivers a unified, extensible and open platform that integrates information from networked devices and existing device-specific standalone management solutions, creating a single visibility and control environment.  Axonius dramatically improves an organization’s security and operational posture, allowing IT and security operations teams to safely enable device adoption and usage at scale.  (Axonius 06.09)

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2.10  Hyundai Motor, Technion and KAIST Commit to Jointly Research

Hyundai Motor has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) to conduct joint R&D projects around future mobility technologies.  The company and the globally renowned institutes will work together with a collective goal to quickly and effectively respond to rapidly changing needs and environments associated with the automotive industry.  The newly-signed agreement will see the company and the universities form the ‘HTK Consortium for Future Mobility Research’, to do research to accelerate developments in advanced future technologies, beginning with autonomous driving, cyber security, and artificial intelligence over the coming years.

Hyundai Motor will also call on Technion’s significant experience and expertise in working with start-ups, with the Israeli tech institute acting as bridge between Hyundai Motor and emerging companies.  The HTK Consortium will discover and incubate prospective start-ups in Israel, providing the support and consultation they need to bring their products and technologies to the market.  The collaboration was spearheaded by Hyundai Motor’s Strategic Technology Center, which was launched in February 2017.  The Center oversees the company’s research in future technology from AI, advanced materials, energy and robotics, to the next generation of information communication technologies.

Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, long a key driver of Israeli innovation, and a hub for the ‘Start-up Nation’, is the country’s oldest university established in 1912.  It has earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading science and technology universities and has recently expanded to New York and China.  Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world, in areas including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, robotics, water conservation and nanotechnology.  (Hyundai Motor 06.09)

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2.11  Hainan Airways Launches Tel Aviv-Shanghai Flights

An airliner of Chinese airline Hainan Airlines landed at Ben Gurion Airport on 12 September, the inaugural flight of the company’s new Tel Aviv-Shanghai route, with three weekly flights on Boeing Dreamliners.  Because the route is to a new destination, Hainan Airlines will receive a €750,000 grant from the Ministry of Tourism, to be used for marketing efforts aimed at increasing the number of Chinese tourists to Israel, among other things.

Hainan launched its first route from Tel Aviv to Beijing in April 2016.  The airline announced that it was considering expanding its service on this route, and this month added a fifth weekly flight on the route.  Hainan will operate three weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-Shanghai route: on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  Ticket prices on the first three flights will start at $500, after which they will be priced from $600.  Prices of business class tickets will start at $2,749.

Some 64,600 visitors from China entered Israel in January-July 2017, 66% more than last year.  Hainan flew 50,000 passengers in the first half of 2017.  Hainan’s figures show that 40% of those coming to Israel are business people, 30% are classed as “Christian pilgrimage tourists” and 30% are general tourists.  The tourist groups usually stay in Israel for six nights.  (Globes 12.09)

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2.12  Mazor Robotics Announces Closing of the Third Tranche Equity Investment

Mazor Robotics announced the closing of the third tranche equity investment by Medtronic pursuant to the executed agreement between the parties, as previously disclosed in August 2017.  Mazor issued 1.04 million American Depositary Shares (ADSs) at $38.46 per ADS, which is equal to the weighted average price of the ADSs for the trailing 20-day period, for an aggregate purchase price of $40 million.  In addition, Mazor issued to Medtronic warrants to purchase an additional 1.21 million ADSs at an exercise price of $44.23 per ADS, which represents a 15% premium over the per share price for the $40 million equity investment.  Medtronic has the right to exercise the warrants immediately in whole or in part, for cash, and they expire after 18 months from the issuance date.  Medtronic’s total investment in Mazor to date totals $72 million.

Caesarea’s Mazor Robotics believes in healing through innovation by developing and introducing revolutionary technologies and products aimed at redefining the gold standard of quality care.  Mazor Robotics Guidance System enables surgeons to conduct spine and brain procedures in an accurate and secure manner.  (Mazor Robotics 15.09)

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3.1  VOP CZ and NIMR Showcase Winterized AJBAN 440A Light Armored Vehicle for Europe

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) NIMR Automotive and Czech auto-manufacturer VOP CZ have unveiled a new “winterized” variant of NIMR’s AJBAN 440A light armored vehicle, designated NIMR 440N.  The NIMR 440N confirms to STANAG 2895 (-32°C to +55°C), which means that it can perform in cold weather conditions.  It also conforms to NATO EMC [i.e. Electro-Magnetic Compatibility] MIL-STD 416F along with other NATO Compliance standards.

NIMR Automotive and VOP CZ partnered in January to bring NIMR military vehicles to Central and Eastern European markets, especially the Visegred Group.  Besides developing localized variants of NIMR products, the partnership also commits to delegating VOP CZ to produce and support vehicles sold in Europe.  Since 2015, VOP CZ has been the manufacturer of the AJBAN 440A’s armored cabins.  In February, both companies expressed hope that the expanded partnership would spur the production of 1,000 vehicles in the next three years, generating revenue of over $500 million.

NIMR Automotive is a member of the Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC), which is one of Abu Dhabi’s spearheads for localizing the supply of defense equipment.  (Quwa 08.09)

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4.1  Technion & Chicago’s Current Sign Agreement

On 11 September, Chicago Mayor Emanuel signed an agreement to drive collaboration and research between Chicago’s Current and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.  The Memorandum of Understanding will bring together Chicago academic and research institutions with Israel’s top public research university to develop solutions to global water challenges.  The agreement establishes academic partnerships in areas of fundamental science and applied water research between Technion and Current’s Research Consortium, which is comprised of Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois (Urban/Champaign), the University of Illinois (Chicago), the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Chicago Department of Water Management.

The partnership will create a broad collaborative research platform between Current and the Technion, linking water research, technology development, commercialization, and deployment in industry and infrastructure.  The agreement is designed to increase research outcomes that result in deployed solutions and aligned water research efforts between the Technion and Current’s Research Consortium.  It will also generate solutions to water challenges with the potential to increase economic development and protect public health in both Israel and the U.S. through developing globally exportable products.  (Technion 12.09)

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4.2  Dubai Awards $3.8 Billion Deal for Final Phase of Giant Solar Park

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has awarded the 700MW AED14.2 billion ($3.87 billion) fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and China’s Shanghai Electric.  The contract for the largest single-site concentrated solar power (CSP) project in the world was awarded to the consortium, which tabled the lowest bid of 7.3 US cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h).  The project will have the world’s tallest solar tower, measuring 260 meters.  The power purchase agreement and the financial close are due to be finished shortly.  The project will be commissioned in stages, starting from Q4/20.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will generate 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030.  The 13MW photovoltaic first phase became operational in 2013.  The 200MW photovoltaic second phase of the solar park was launched in March 2017.  The 800MW photovoltaic third phase will be operational by 2020.  (Various 17.09)

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5.1  Lebanon’s Trade Deficit Rose by 1.39% to $9.34 Billion by July 2017

According to the Lebanese Customs, Lebanon’s trade deficit rose by 1.39% from $9.22B by July 2016 to $9.34B by July 2017.  The rise can be attributed to the 1.42% rise in imports to $11B, which offset the 1.62% rise in exports to $1.65B.  Moreover volume of both imported and exported goods went up, where the imported volume rose by 1.27% to 10.34M tons and the exported volume increased by 29% to 1.11M tons, by July 2017.  When it comes to imports, mineral products (19.63% of total import value) saw a drop in value when compared to the previous year.  In details, imports of mineral products fell by 6.25% y-o-y to stand at $2.16B.  Nonetheless, products of the chemical or allied industries, which registered 11.15% of the total value of imported goods, rose by a yearly 2.28% to $1.23B.  As for machinery and electrical instruments, they grasped a share of 10.33% of the total value and rose by 4.04% from July 2016 to stand at $1.14B by July 2017.  The top import destinations for the first seven months of the year were China, Greece, USA and Germany with respective shares of 10%, 7% and 6% for each of Germany and the US.  As for exports, “pearls, precious stones and metals” products maintained the highest share of exported goods yet they dropped by 11.72% to reach $361M during the first 7 months of 2017.  As for prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco, they comprised 16.47% of exported goods’ value amounting to $272.47M by July 2017, compared to $262.04M by July 2016.  Moreover, exports of base metals, that take up to 11.21% of the total exports, substantially rose by 31% y-o-y to $185.54M by July 2017.  The top export destinations for the same period were South Africa with a share of 12% of the total value, followed by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Syria accounting for 9% each, and Iraq with 7% of the total value.  (LC 11.09)

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5.2  Number of Lebanese Tourists Reaches its Highest Level in 7 Years

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the number of tourist arrivals increased by a yearly rate of 13.12% to 1.29M by August 2017.  This increase was mainly due to the significant increases in the number of tourist arrivals from the Arab countries, Europe and America, which constitute the largest share of tourists.  In details, European tourists (constituting 34% of total tourists) went up by a yearly 12.93% to 436,619 by August this year.  French visitors rose by an annual 17.07% to 118,737 and tourists from Germany and Italy also increased by 15.28% and 13.55% to 71,043 and 22,480, respectively, by August 2017.  In addition, the number of visitors from Arab countries, representing 30% of the total, rose by 16.38%, on a yearly basis, to 392,203.  In fact, both the number of Saudi and Kuwaiti tourists doubled because of the ban lift to 47,749 and 31,490.  Moreover, the number of Iraqi tourists went up by a yearly 4.87% to 161,588 and the number of Egyptians rose by 2.62% to 54,679 by August 2017.  American tourists, grasping a share of 18% in the total, also rose by an annual 11.75% to 237,841 by August 2017.  This rise was mainly due to the yearly growth in the number of visitors from the US and Canada, which increased by 16.60% and 14.76% to 129,887 and 82,386 by August 2017, respectively.  (MoT 15.09)

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5.3  Total Number of Lebanese Registered New Cars Witness a Slight Increase

According to the Association of Lebanese Car Importers, the total number of newly registered commercial and passenger cars marginally rose by 0.78% year- on- year (y-o-y) to 27,563 cars by August 2017.  In details, the number of registered commercial cars increased by 7.70% y-o-y to 1,930, and the number of registered passenger vehicles increased by 0.28% to reach 25,633 cars during the first eight months of the year.  In terms of car brands, Kia maintained its top rank, with the largest share of 19.43% of newly registered cars, followed by Hyundai, Toyota and Nissan with respective shares of 12.22%, 12.09% and 9.19%. As for sales per importer, Natco acquired the largest stake of newly registered cars with 19.43% of the total, followed by RYMCO with 13.92%, BUMC and Century Motors with 12.33% and 12.28%, respectively.  (ALC 14.09)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.4  GCC Economic Growth Forecast to Strengthen from 2018

Economic growth in the GCC will strengthen from 2018 onwards, with the UAE and Qatar outperforming the rest of the region, according to a new BMI Research report.  It said the factors that have weighed on expansion this year – hydrocarbon production cuts and lower-for-longer oil prices – will ease in 2018, boosting government revenues and improving consumer and investor confidence across the region.  It added that Qatar and the UAE will be the growth outperformers over the next five years.

BMI said it expects economic growth to pick up in all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states over the medium term (2018-2021).  It added that growth will underperform this year (from an average 2.5% in 2016) – owing to the OPEC, non-OPEC agreement to curb oil production, and lower oil prices than we initially anticipated.

The UAE and Qatar will outperform the region over the years ahead, as strong fiscal positions enable their governments to invest heavily into diversification and infrastructure development programs.  While Bahraini growth rates are likely to also remain robust, the country is exceptionally vulnerable to external shocks, given its wide budget deficits, high debt and reliance on Gulf funding.  Gradually rising global hydrocarbon prices will be a key driver of growth in the GCC over the years ahead, it added, as hydrocarbons account for over half of government revenue in all member states, and prices therefore have a major impact on public spending.

However, higher hydrocarbon prices will be insufficient to fully mitigate the effects of hydrocarbon production cuts for most Arab Gulf economies in 2017.  The OPEC, non-OPEC agreement has been extended to March 2018, as its effect on the drawdown of global oil stockpiles has been slow to materialize, and this will lead to flat or declining oil production growth across the GCC in the near term.  BMI said this trend is taking its toll on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, in particular, for which are forecast to see real GDP expansions slow to 0.0%, 0.3% and 1.2% respectively in 2017, from 1.7%, 1.9% and 3.1% in 2016.  (BMI 15.09)

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5.5  U.S. State Department Approves $3.8 Billion F-16V & F-16V Upgrade Sale to Bahrain

The U.S. State Department has approved a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) $2.79 billion U.S. sale for 19 new-built Lockheed Martin F-16V and a $1.08 billion F-16V upgrade set for 20 F-16C/D Block-40 to Bahrain.  The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) outlines the major defense equipment of each proposed FMS deal (new-built F-16V and F-16V upgrade kits).  Congress has 30 days to reject either or both.  Main components of the deal include, among others, AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, General Electric F-110-GE-129 engines, Improved Programmable Display Generators, Modular Mission Computers, Embedded Global Navigation Systems, AN/ALQ-211 AIDEWS self-protection and jamming suites and AN/APX-126 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) systems.

In addition, Bahrain also requested 25 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods, six DB-110 Advanced Reconnaissance Systems, two AIM-9X air-to-air missiles (AAM), two AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM), and kits for small numbers of various other air-to-surface munitions, among them the GBU-24 Paveway III laser-guided bomb (LGB) and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).

The package also includes one Joint Mission Planning System, one F-16V simulator and captive training units (numbering between two and four) for the AIM-120C7, AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon, MK-84/BLU-117, BLU-109 and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.  Besides MDEs, both deals include training, maintenance support, spare parts, logistics support and other standard after-sale provisions.  If finalized, this would be Lockheed Martin’s first new-built F-16V sale.  (Quwa 10.09)

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5.6  UAE Finalizes Plans for Start of New Tax System

The board of directors of the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority (FTA) said they have finalized plans for the upcoming period – including procedures for the introduction of Excise Tax next month and Value Added Tax (VAT) early next year.  The authority said it is working to issue the executive regulations for each respective law to educate taxable persons on their rights and responsibilities following its second meeting held in the Ministry of Finance’s Dubai headquarters.  Chaired by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, the meeting saw the board explore the latest developments around the planned nationwide federal tax laws.  The board also adopted the proposed fees and fines related to the new taxes.  (Various 07.09)

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5.7  UAE’s Non-Oil Foreign Trade Rises 3.2% to $109 Billion

The UAE’s total non-oil foreign trade reached about AED401 billion ($109.1 billion) in the first quarter of 2017, up 3.2% on the same period last year, it was announced on 5 September by the Federal Customs Authority.  Trade volumes rose from AED388 billion during Q1 2016.  Direct foreign trade, which represents 68% of the UAE’s total trade volume, was valued at AED272 billion during the same period, while the Free Zone trade represented 32% at AED129 billion.  The data also showed a significant increase of 7.4% in re-exports to reach AED110 billion in Q1 with exports valued at AED46 billion.  Imported goods grew by 5.2% during Q1 to AED245 billion.

GCC states were the major trade partners of the UAE accounting for 11% of the country’s total trade during Q1, with Saudi Arabia top with AED19.9 billion of non-oil trade.  Gold topped the list of imported goods during the first quarter with a value of AED34.7 billion, accounting for 14% of total imports.  Mobile phones were second with a value of AED24.2 billion while vehicle imports were valued at AED14.5 billion.  (AB 05.09)\

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5.8  New Orders Boost Saudi Private Sector Growth in August

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector performance continued to improve during August, with growth supported by sharp expansions in new orders and output.  Emirates NBD’s Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers’ Index survey said international demand for Saudi products and services picked up, as highlighted by a renewed increase in new export orders.  It added that growth of staffing levels was sustained during August, as companies responded to greater capacity pressures by taking on extra staff.  Companies continued to face upward cost pressures, but their ability to fully pass on higher cost burdens to consumers was restricted by intensive competitive conditions.  The rate of growth in inventories climbed to a record high, reflecting greater buying levels.

The headline seasonally adjusted Emirates NBD Saudi Arabia PMI edged up to 55.8 in August from 55.7 in July.  This was consistent with the strongest improvement in operating conditions since April. However, the headline PMI remained below its long-run average (58.1).  The upward movement in the headline index was supported by a sharper increase in new orders.  The rate of growth in new work quickened to the fastest in four months.  More projects and stronger underlying demand were cited by panelists as the key factors behind greater inflows of new business.

Companies purchased greater quantities of inputs during August.  As a result, inventories were accumulated at the sharpest rate in the survey history.  Firms faced higher cost burdens during August, with both purchasing prices and staff salaries rising further.  Consequently, firms passed on higher input costs to consumers.  However, the pace of output price inflation was only marginal.  Although the level of positive sentiment dipped to the lowest since October 2016, firms retained positive expectations over the 12-month outlook for output.  Optimism was rooted in forecasts of further improvements in market demand.  (Emirates NBD 07.09)

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►►North Africa

5.9  Egypt’s Annual Urban Inflation Eases To 31.9% in August

Egypt’s annual urban rate of inflation dipped slightly in August, dropping to 31.9% from 33% in July, the official statistics agency CAPMAS said on 10 September.  Urban inflation climbed in July to its highest level in decades following subsidy cuts introduced by the government as part of a series of economic reforms aimed at improving the country’s finances.  Urban consumer prices in August rose 1.1% in the month, while July saw a monthly increase of 3.2%, with spikes in fuel and electricity prices a key factor.  Food prices in August showed a year-on-year increase of 42.2%, while housing, water, electricity and gas prices have climbed by 7.7%, CAPMAS added.

In November 2016, Egypt floated its currency, slashing the value of the pound by half and triggering heavy inflation.  Egypt has been pushing ahead with a series of austerity measures, including fuel and electricity subsidy cuts, to help ease the country’s gaping budget deficit.  The reforms have helped the government secure a $12 billion IMF loan and allowed the central bank to revive its foreign currency reserves, which jumped to a record of $36.04 billion in July.  In July, Egypt’s finance minister said the government expects that monthly inflation rates would stabilize over four months.  (CAPMAS 10.09)

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5.10  Remittances from Expatriate Egyptians at $14.5 Billion Since Currency Float Began

Remittances from expatriate Egyptians have reached $14.5 billion in the period since Egypt floated its currency in November through July, the Central Bank of Egypt said on 10 September.  That figure is up from $12.6 billion during the same period the previous year.  Remittances for the month of July rose to $1.8 billion compared with $1.2 billion during July last year.  (Reuters 10.09)

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5.11  Russia to Supply Nearly 50 MiG-29 Fighter Jets to Egypt

Russia will supply some 50 MiG-29 fighter jets to Egypt under a contract that has been already signed and the deliveries are already underway.  Earlier media reports said citing sources that Russia and Egypt had signed a contract on the supplies of nearly 50 MiG-29 fighter jets by 2020.  The MiG-29 fighter jet is designed to destroy aerial targets both in the daytime and at night in all weather conditions.  The fighter jet can accomplish patrolling activities, provide close air support for ground forces and paratroops, interdict combat areas, conduct aerial reconnaissance, intercept aerial targets, escort strike and military transport planes and deliver strikes against ground and sea targets.  (Tass 12.09)

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5.12  Moroccan Industrial, Energy and Mining Production Increases 1.7% in 2017

The index of Moroccan industrial production, energy and mining excluding petroleum refining (IPIEM) continues its upward trend, according to figures published recently by the High Commission for Planning (HCP), with a 1.7% increase in Q2/17 compared to the same period of 2016.  According to HCP analysts, this growth mainly due to the increase in the production index of the food industries by 8.1%, the chemical industries by 5.4%, clothing and furs by 7.8%, the automotive industry by 5.1%, transport and equipment by 7.2% and publishing products by 5.9 %.  However, non-metallic mineral products took a strong hit with an 11.3 decrease.  According the HCP, the cement production index also witnessed a significant decrease of 13.7 %, followed by losses in the electrical machinery and equipment of 7.2%, metal products with 10.7%, the paper and cardboard industry with 4.7 % and leather, travel goods and footwear with 3.6%.

The same source also reported an increase in the index of mining production which increased by 33%.  This development is the result of an increase in the index of production of miscellaneous mining products and metallic minerals by 34.7 and 1%, respectively.  The HCP analysts also noted an increase in the index of electric power generation by 5.3 % during the second quarter of 2017.

The HCP had attributed this evolution to the increase in the respective indices of production of the chemical industries (+ 5.8%), clothing and fur articles (+ 9.1%), food industries (+ 1.7%), the automotive industry (+ 11.4%), electrical machinery and equipment (+ 11.9%) and machinery and equipment (+ 7.8%).  (MWN 15.09)

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6.1  Turkey’s Current Account Deficit Widens in July

Turkey’s current account deficit reached $5.1 billion in July 2017, up almost $2.7 billion year-on-year, the Central Bank announced on 15 September.  This brought the 12-month rolling deficit to $37.1 billion.  The Bank said this increase in the current account was mainly due to the rise in the deficit in goods items by nearly $3.8 billion to $7.3 billion in the month.  Travel items, which constitute a major part of the services account, recorded a net inflow of $2.3 billion in July, increasing by $652 million compared to the same month of 2016, the Bank added.  Investment income under the primary income item indicated a net outflow of $541 million, decreasing by $11 million in comparison to July 2016.  Secondary income recorded a net inflow of $226 million, increasing by $175 million compared to the same month of the previous year, the data also showed.  Meanwhile, Turkey’s current account deficit for the first seven months of 2017 stood at $25.96 billion, up from some $4.47 billion compared to the January-July 2016 period.  (HDN 15.09)

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6.2  Turkey’s Machinery Exports Hit $9.4 Billion in 8 Months

Turkey’s machinery exports rose by 6.8% to $9.4 billion in the first eight months of the current year compared with the same period last year.  While Turkey reached its all-time highest exports for August, the share of the machinery sector in total exports was almost 10%, the Machinery Exporters’ Association (MAIB) said on 8 September.  Almost all product groups’ exports increased during this period, while the increase in turbine, turbojet and hydraulic cylinder exports surged 60%.  The greatest demand for Turkish machines came from Germany and the United States.  Total machine exports to these two countries exceed $2 billion.  (HDN 10.09)

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6.3  Turkey’s Unemployment Rate Steady at 10.2% in June

Turkey’s unemployment rate held steady at 10.2% in June, which covered the May-July period, unchanged from the levels of one month and one year earlier, data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK) showed on 15 September.  The non-agricultural unemployment rate stood at 12.2% on average during the May-July period, the data showed, also unchanged from both a month and a year earlier.  The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11.1% with a 0.2%age point year-on-year decrease.  The unemployment rate started the year at 13% in January.  It dropped to 12.6% in February, 11.7% in March, 10.5% in April, and 10.2 in May.

The number of jobless people aged 15 and over in the country rose to 3.25 million, up 124,000 from June last year, TUIK stated.  While the youth unemployment rate including persons aged 15-24 was 20.6% with a 1.2% increase, the unemployment rate for persons aged 15-64 was unchanged at 10.4%.  The employment rate rose 0.9% to 48% – some 28.7 million people – from the same period last year.  Labor force participation also increased by 1% year-on-year to 53.4%.  (TUIK 15.09)

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6.4  Greek PM Tsipras Says Creditor Supervision of Economy to End in 2018

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras said on 9 September that the Greek economy is turning around and will no longer be under the supervision of the country’s creditors in 2018.  Tsipras said the Greek economy will grow in 2017 after a 9 year recession.  He noted that Greece added 236,000 jobs in the first seven months of 2017, the fastest pace since 2001 and that foreign investors are eager to capitalize on the opportunities.  To back up that point, Tsipras said a French businessman accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron on his 2-day visit to Greece this week told him that the once prevalent narrative of Grexit — the likelihood of the deeply-indebted country leaving the 19 nation Eurozone — has now become Grinvestment.  Left unmentioned was any reference to cutting part of the country’s still very high debt, a central demand of his government to which the IMF is sympathetic, but to which the European Union, especially Germany, is adamantly opposed.  Also conveniently forgotten by Tsipras, now the champion of foreign investment and declared enemy of “wasteful spending,” was his party’s past vehement opposition to foreign investment and the obstacles put by both government ministers and state bureaucracy to investments.  (AP 10.09)

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7.1  Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year Begins 20 September

Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as the Jewish New Year, is celebrated on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.  This year that date falls on the afternoon of 20 September and continues until the evening of 22 September, followed immediately by the Sabbath.  In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah literally means “first of the year.”  The name Rosh Hashanah is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday.  The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Truah (the day of the sounding of the shofar).  The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24 – 25.  The shofar is a ram’s horn; the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue is one of the most important observances of this holiday.  The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice, though one that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance.  No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah.  Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded.  In fact, there is a special prayer book called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays.  Religious services for the holiday focus on the concept of G-d’s sovereignty.  One popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, reflecting the wish for a sweet new year.

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7.2  Fast of Gedaliya Marked on 16 September

The Fast of Gedaliya (or Tzom Gedaliya, falling on the 3rd of Tishrei), follows Rosh Hashanah.  This year it is observed on 24 September.  It marks the assassination of Gedaliya ben Achikam and the exile of the small Jewish community that remained in Israel after the Destruction.  When Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylonia, destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and exiled the Jewish people to Babylonia, he allowed an impoverished remnant to remain in the land and appointed Gedaliah Ben Achikam as their Governor.  Many Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and other neighboring lands returned to the land of Judea, tended the vineyards given to them by the king of Babylonia and enjoyed a new respite after their earlier oppression.  However, political machinations led Yishmael Ben Netaniah, to assassinate Gedaliah.  Yishmael murdered Gedaliah, together with most of the Jews who had joined him and numbers of Babylonians whom the Babylonian King had left with Gedaliah.  The remaining Jews feared the vengeance of the Babylonian King and fled to Egypt.  The surviving remnant of Jews was thus dispersed and the land remained desolate, until the Jewish polity was re-established in some 70 years’ time.  The fast is observed from daybreak until the stars appear in the evening.

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7.3  Yom Kippur – Holiest Day in the Jewish Calendar – Falls on 29/30 September

On the eve of 29 September and until after sunset on 30 September, Israel and world Jewry will observe Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.  The holiest day on the Jewish calendar, falling on the tenth of Tishri, it is a day marked by fasting, prayer and penitence for one’s sins against their fellow man and G-d.  Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another person.  To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.  That must all be done before Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day.  It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur.  The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known: washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.  As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved.  In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they want to.  It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow.  The day long fast is widely observed even among Israel’s secular public and most of the country’s Jewish population attend all or part of the day’s synagogue services.  The fast is concluded with a shofar blast and rejoicing.

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7.4  Muhammad Most Popular Baby Name in Israel

On 17 September, the Population and Immigration Authority released the most popular names chosen for babies born in Israel over the past Jewish year of 5777.  The list includes both Jewish and non-Jewish names.  Muhammad was the most popular male name, followed by Yosef/Yussuf, Dovid, Daniel, Udi, Omer, Eitan, Ariel, Noam and Adam.  The most popular exclusively Jewish male names were Uri, David, Ariel, Noam, Eitan, Yosef, Daniel, Yonatan and Lavi.  The most popular female name was Tamar, followed by Adel, Miriam, Avigail, Noa, Shira, Talia, Yael and Leah.  The most popular female names in the Jewish sector were Tamar, Avigail, Adel, Noam, Shira, Taliah, Yael, Shira, Leah and Esther.

Overall, 166,450 babies were born in 2017, down from 176,230 in 2016, while 42,172 Israelis passed away.  The report said that 23,770 Jews moved to Israel, while 2,431 Israelis emigrated to a foreign country.  In addition, 62,821 Israelis married this past year, down from last year’s 75,848, and 22,644 divorced, slightly down from the 23,419 who divorced in 2016.  (PIA 17.09)

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7.5  For First Time, Grand Tour Cycling Race to Start in Israel

The prestigious Giro d’Italia cycling race will begin in Israel next year, marking the first time any leg of the sport’s three Grand Tours will take place outside of Europe.  Organizers said that details of the exact route of the three-day leg to be held in Israel will be announced soon, with Italian and Israeli ministers making the announcement in Jerusalem along with the recently retired Spanish cyclist and two-time Giro winner Alberto Contador.

More than 175 of the world’s best cyclists will travel to Israel for the start of the race, one of cycling’s top three stage races along with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta a Espana.  The Giro, first held in 1909, has started outside Italy on 11 occasions, in locations including Monte Carlo, Athens and Belfast, and will now leave Europe for the first time.  The event is set to be the biggest sporting event held in Israel and is expected to draw tens of thousands of tourists to the country.  (IH 15.09)

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7.6  Louvre Abu Dhabi to Welcome Visitors Beginning in November

Louvre Abu Dhabi announced it will open its doors to the public on 11 November 2017.  It is the first museum of its kind in the Arab world: a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilizations and cultures.  Located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel has designed a museum city under a vast silvery dome.  Visitors can walk through the promenades overlooking the sea beneath the museum’s 180-metre dome, comprised of almost 8,000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern.  When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving ‘rain of light’ beneath the dome, something reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.

Louvre Abu Dhabi forms one element of Abu Dhabi’s cultural strategy, which safeguards our rich heritage and catalyzes creativity.  Investment in a vibrant cultural ecosystem supports the UAE’s economic diversification and development as a modern, dynamic society.  Louvre Abu Dhabi will inspire a new generation of cultural leaders and creative thinkers to contribute to our rapidly-changing and tolerant nation.”  A gallery dedicated to universal religions will feature sacred texts: a Leaf from the “Blue Quran”, a Gothic Bible, a Pentateuch and texts from Buddhism and Taoism.  The artistic exchanges on the trading routes during the Medieval and Modern periods are brought to the fore through an important number of ceramic works.  (TCA 06.09)

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7.7  Egypt’s Public Universities Start Academic Year with New Tradition of Saluting the Flag

Egypt’s public universities started the 2017/18 academic year with a new tradition of saluting the Egyptian flag, aimed at boosting patriotic sentiment, following a recent decision by the Higher Council of Universities (HCU).  The decision was announced on 14 September by the minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, following a meeting of the HCU.  The universities of Cairo, Ain Shams were among those saluting the flag and singing the national anthem.  Several universities in Upper Egypt also took part, including Beni Suef and Fayoum, along with the University of Zagazig and Kafr El-Sheikh in the Delta.

Saluting the flag is mandatory for all pupils in both public and private schools in Egypt, from primary through secondary levels.  The HCU’s decision has sparked spirited discussion, with some skeptical that a salute-the-flag exercise can really boost patriotism, while others argue that such ceremonies fail to address problems that are more pressing in an embattled education system.  There have been no active student unions in Egyptian public universities since their dissolution in 2015.  In addition, in 2014, some university heads suspended the activities of societies linked to political parties.

The number of students enrolled in public universities and educational institutes for the new academic year is estimated at 2.5 million.  (Ahram Online 17.09)

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7.8  Tunisia’s Parliament Backs Chahed’s New Government

Tunisia’s parliament gave Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s new government a vote of confidence on 11 September after the premier detailed plans to halve the budget deficit and trim the public wage bill in the next three years as part of a reform package.  Chahed named a new cabinet after weeks of wrangling between the ruling Nidaa Tounes party and rival Islamist party Ennahda over posts that had delayed progress on a reform program backed by the International Monetary Fund.  Lawmakers voted late on 11 September to approve the new cabinet, giving Chahed support to push on with austerity measures.

Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress after the 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, but successive governments have failed to advance in economic reforms to trim deficits and create jobs and growth.  Chahed earlier said his government needed consensus backing to push ahead with reforms by 2020 that he hopes will revive Tunisia’s economy, which has been hit by unrest after the 2011 revolt and by militant attacks on the tourism industry.

Chahed said the government aimed to reduce the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2020 from 6% expected this year.  He said growth was expected to hit 5% that year; in the first half of this year, the economy expanded by 1.9%.  Backed by the IMF, the North African country is looking to reduce subsidies, overhaul its pension system and shrink its large public sector.  Worries over social unrest have kept authorities from advancing with reforms.  Chahed said the government planned to reduce the public wage bill to around 12.5% of GDP from the current 14% – one of the highest ratios in the world.  In an effort to boost foreign currency reserves, he said the government would also loosen currency controls to allow Tunisians to hold foreign currency accounts locally and introduce an amnesty for illicit foreign currency trade.  (Reuters 11.09)

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8.1  Medtronic to Set Up Israeli R&D Centers

Medtronic will be the first company to establish a development center in Israel in cooperation with the Israel Innovation Authority.  In return for hiring 100 employees in spheres beyond the company’s existing activity in Israel, the company will receive a $14 million grant from the Innovation Authority.  Following approval of the grant in recent days, the new deal between the state and Medtronic will be finalized shortly.  It is believed that the grant will be spread over three years by paying 30% of the salary of those working in the development center.  The new activity will be in two locations: Jerusalem and Yokneam, and will involve brain monitoring (Jerusalem) and big data for medicine (Yokneam).

According to Innovation Authority figures, foreign investment in Israel totaled $12.6 billion in 2016, 7% more than in 2015.  The Innovation Authority said that 320 multinationals were operating in Israel.

Medtronic has a deep, long-standing and extensive connection with the Israeli medical equipment industry.  It has 750 employees in Israel out of its 85,000 employees in 65 development centers worldwide.  In addition to its marketing branch, which has been in Israel since 1974, Medtronic has also acquired Israeli medical equipment companies.  These companies grew several times over in size in some of these cases, while in others they were closed down or transferred abroad.  The first case was the 2006 acquisition of Odin Medical Technologies, for a mere $9 million.  Ventor Technologies, acquired in 2009 for $325 million, was later closed down.  In 2014, Medtronic acquired Covidien, which shortly before that went on an acquisition spree in Israel that included superDimension, Oridion Systems, PolyTouch Medical, and Given Imaging at an aggregate price of $1.6 billion.  As far as is known, the activities of these companies are still taking place in Israel under the Medtronic umbrella.  Medtronic also invested in Itamar Medical, it is an investor in many Israeli venture capital funds and is also a partner in the MindUp incubator in Haifa, which deals in digital medicine.  Medtronic currently has a fruitful partnership with Mazor Robotics.  Medtronic invested over $70 million in Mazor, and became the exclusive distributor of its spinal column systems.  (Globes 11.09)

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8.2  Tikcro Technologies Announces Full Human CTLA-4 Blocking Antibodies

Tikcro Technologies has successfully humanized its CTLA-4 blocking antibodies.  Tikcro has successfully generated full-human cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) antibodies from animal-derived models.  The antibodies show high blocking affinities towards a discontinued epitope of the CTLA-4 receptor’s interaction area with its ligands.  After in-vivo animal trials expected to begin this year, the company is planning to pursue additional pre-clinical work through 2018 to further support its regulatory applications for the commencement of clinical trials.  The market size for CTLA-4 blocking antibodies exceeds $1 billion per annum.  Currently, the FDA approvals for the CTLA-4 blocking antibody market is limited to melanoma treatment.  However, several pharma companies, including Tikcro, are pursuing new CTLA-4 antibodies to treat additional clinical cancer indications with less immune related adverse effects.

Ness Tziona’s Tikcro Technologies supports early stage development in growth areas, with a focus on biotechnology projects originated in Israeli academic centers.  Tikcro is engaged with development of certain antibodies selected and verified in pre-clinical trials with a focus on antibodies targeting immune modulator pathways for cancer treatment.  (Tikcro Technologies 06.09)

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8.3  Gardia Medical Demonstrates Enhanced Safety in Lower Extremity Interventions

Gardia Medical, an Israeli medical device company focused on embolic protection solutions, announced that according to the independent Clinical Events Committee (CEC), Gardia successfully met the primary end-point in its WISE-LE study.  The WISE-LE study’s objective is to demonstrate the safety and performance of the WIRION EPS in subjects undergoing LE atherectomy for the treatment of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).  According to the IDE approved study protocol, the primary end-point for the WISE-LE performance-goal study is freedom from MAEs to 30 days post procedure.  The performance goal was based on Covidien’s DEFINITIVE LE and DEFINITIVE Ca++ trials.  Currently, Covidien’s SpiderFX in the only embolic protection system cleared for the LE indication in the US.

Caesarea’s Gardia is expecting to receive an Atherectomy Independent Labeling that will cover use with all atherectomy devices.  The SpiderFX, the only FDA cleared EPD for the LE indication is limited for use with a specific atherectomy device.

WIRION is a unique Embolic Protection System, indicated to protect from blood clots and emboli occurring in the course of catheterization.  The system has a proprietary locking mechanism, allowing the physician to use any guide wire throughout the procedure and to place the filter in any location on the guide wire.  The flexibility of using the guidewire of choice and placing the filter anywhere along the guide-wire simplifies the procedure, increases is safety profile and makes it more effective – important advantages over other solutions on the market.  The WIRION system also includes a unique catheter for easy, quick and safe retrieval of the filter following the placement of the stent.  (Gardia Medical 06.09)

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8.4  Flying SpArk Joins IKEA’s Start-up Accelerator

Flying SpArk, a new insect-protein producer, will join the first “IKEA Bootcamp” start-up accelerator.  The launch of this unique boot camp generated more than 1,200 applications from 86 different countries, but just 10 start-ups will join the IKEA product development center in Almhult, Sweden.

Ramat Gan’s Flying SpArk is a new food-tech company focused on all-natural protein extracted from the Mediterranean fruit fly for human consumption.  This safe, sustainable ingredient is high in protein, calcium, iron and potassium and, unlike meat, it is odorless and virtually cholesterol-free.  From a small base of product launches tracked, the use (by CAGR) of edible insects grew more than 58% from 2011 to 2015, according to global research group Innova Market Insights.  Overall, most products are in the cereal/energy bars category (32%) but 12% are in meat-substitute products.  Cricket is the most commonly used insect, found in 56% of products tracked, typically in whole form or as a flour, with 54% of products tracked feature the claim “high/source of protein.”

The high demand for sustainable protein, combined with innovative technology, has driven strong support for Flying SpArk.  The company has raised $1 million with the help of the Israel Innovation Authority and The Kitchen, a food-tech incubator sponsored by the Strauss Group (one of the largest food conglomerates in Israel).  Over the last 12 months, Flying SpArk has made significant inroads toward building the infrastructure and technologies integral to developing its products.  (Flying SpArk 06.09)

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8.5  Neusoft Medical Partners with DiA for Cardiac Automated Tools

Shenyang, China’s Neusoft Medical Systems, a leading developer and manufacturer of advanced medical equipment in China, signed a new partnership agreement with DiA Imaging Analysis.  Neusoft will integrate DiA’s breakthrough automated software tools into its ultrasound line of products to provide its customers with quick, accurate and reproducible imaging analysis of the heart.  The new product partnership will support physicians to better diagnose heart conditions for enhanced patient care and improve physician workflow by reducing evaluation time.  The advanced product capabilities will be available to all Neusoft customers.

DiA Imaging Analysis is a medical imaging analysis software company.  DiA provides fully automated, easily implemented tools that enable quick, objective and accurate image interpretations, with initial focus on ultrasound of the heart (Echocardiography).  DiA’s cognitive image processing technology is based on advanced pattern recognition and machine learning algorithms that automatically imitate the way the human eye identifies borders and motion, producing data and scoring that physicians are looking for.

Headquartered in Beer-Sheva, Israel and present in the US, DiA is led by medical industry veterans, experienced entrepreneurs and supported by key opinion leaders from top medical facilities in the USA and Israel.  (DiA Imaging Analysis 05.09)

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8.6  FDA Grants Orphan Drug Status to Cellect’s ApoGraft for Acute GvHD & Chronic GvHD

Cellect Biotechnology announced that the U.S. FDA has granted orphan drug designation for Cellect’s ApoGraft for the prevention of acute and chronic graft versus host disease(GvHD) in transplant patients.  GvHD is a transplant associated disease representing an outcome of two immune systems crashing into each other.  In many transplantations from donors, and especially in Bone Marrow Transplantations (BMT), the transplanted immune mature cells (as opposed to stem cells) attack the host (patient receiving the transplant) and create severe morbidity and in many cases even death.  This disease happens due to current practices being unable to separate the GvHD causing cells from the much needed stem cells.  Cellect’s ApoGraft was designed to eliminate immune responses in any transplantation of foreign cells and tissues.

Cellect’s AppoGraft technology can be utilized already today to help thousands of development and research centers globally engaged in adult stem cells based therapeutics by providing them with a simplified and cost efficient enriched stem cells for use as a raw material for a wide range of stem cells based therapeutics R&D.  Before Cellect’s ApoGraft, such procedures were extremely complex, inefficient and required substantial resources in both cost, time and infrastructure requirements.  ApoGraft can now be used to significantly advance the use of stem cells across multiple therapeutics indications as well as research and biobanking purposes.

Kfar Saba’s Cellect Biotechnology has developed a breakthrough technology for the selection of stem cells from any given tissue that aims to improve a variety of stem cell applications.  The Company’s technology is expected to provide pharma companies, medical research centers and hospitals with the tools to rapidly isolate stem cells in quantity and quality that will allow stem cell related treatments and procedures.  Cellect’s technology is applicable to a wide variety of stem cell related treatments in regenerative medicine and that current clinical trials are aimed at the cancer treatment of bone marrow transplantations.  (Cellect Biotechnology 05.09)

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8.7  ApiFix Signs Distribution Agreement in Canada

ApiFix signed an exclusive distribution agreement in Canada with Joint Solutions Alliance Corp (JSA), a national Canadian medical device and services distribution organization.  JSA’s primary focus pertains to finding medical devices that will allow surgeons to preserve motion, movement and function where previously the only solution for the patient was to fuse.

ApiFix has invented and developed a non-fusion spinal implant system for the correction of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS).  The implant system is inserted in a minimally invasive surgical procedure.  The ApiFix system aims to improve the quality of life of patients who undergo scoliosis surgery, save hospitalization and OR time, and substantially reduce costs and recovery time associated with standard scoliosis surgery.  In contrast to standard scoliosis surgery, the ApiFix system represents a game-changer in the market, with a spinal implant system, inserted in a short procedure, followed by a brief recovery period, and maintains spine flexibility.

Misgav’s ApiFix is an innovation-driven medical device company focused on providing less invasive solutions for scoliosis patients.  ApiFix’s leading product for non-fusion treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is used today in Europe.  ApiFix is led by a team of highly-regarded spine surgeons and veteran spine specialists.  The company has CE clearance and is marketed in Germany, Italy, Greece, The Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Israel.  (ApiFix 05.09)

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8.8  Pluristem Awarded $8.7 Million to Support Phase III Femoral Neck Fracture Trial by EU

Pluristem Therapeutics’ Phase III study of PLX-PAD cells to support recovery following surgery for femoral neck fracture has been awarded an $8.7 million non-dilutive grant from the Horizon 2020 program, the European Union’s largest research and innovation program.  Final approval of the grant is subject to the finalization of the consortium and Horizon 2020 grant agreements.  This marks the second grant awarded to a Pluristem Phase III trial by Horizon 2020, following an $8 million award for its ongoing Phase III study of PLX-PAD cells in the treatment of Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI), which was awarded in August 2016.

The Phase III trial of PLX-PAD cells in the treatment of femoral neck fracture will be a collaborative effort between Pluristem and an international consortium led by the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.  That trial demonstrated that patients treated with Pluristem’s PLX-PAD cells during total hip arthroplasty experienced significant muscle regeneration compared to the control group with an improvement in muscle force and in muscle volume six months after surgery.

Pluristem’s PLX-PAD program is one of only a handful to be accepted into Europe’s Adaptive Pathway program, the purpose of which is to shorten the time it takes for innovative medicines to reach patients with serious conditions that lack adequate treatment options.  Pluristem plans to enroll patients at clinical sites throughout Europe and the U.S.  The study is expected to serve as a pivotal trial for regulatory approval in both regions.

Haifa’s Pluristem Therapeutics is a leading developer of placenta-based cell therapy products.  The Company has reported robust clinical trial data in multiple indications for its patented PLX (PLacental eXpanded) cells, and is entering late-stage trials in several indications.  PLX cell products release a range of therapeutic proteins in response to inflammation, ischemia, muscle trauma, hematological disorders and radiation damage.  The cells are grown using the Company’s proprietary three-dimensional expansion technology and can be administered to patients off-the-shelf, without tissue matching.  (Pluristam 05.09)

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8.9  CPI Applies for Patent for Sensitivity Tests of Cannabinoids on Tumor Biopsies & CTCs

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (CPI) has filed an extensive provisional patent application with the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) on a new Method for Sensitivity Tests of Cannabinoids on Patient-Derived Tumor Biopsies and CTCs.  The method, developed by Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, expands the company’s proprietary technology of personalization of cannabinoid medicine.  The current invention pertains to a combined method and system for assessing the sensitivity of a variety of cannabinoid- based treatment modalities on patient-derived primary tumor biopsies as well as blood circulating tumor cells (CTC).  This recent patent filing is a strong message and a vigorous reflection of the company’s target: Cannabics methods and products will enable exquisitely accurate medical cannabis solutions to be applied quite soon into mainstream medical practice.

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, a U.S based public company, is dedicated to the development of Personalized Anti-Cancer and Palliative treatments.  The company’s R&D is based in Israel, where it is licensed by the Ministry of Health for its work in both scientific and clinical research.  The Company’s focus is on harnessing the therapeutic properties of natural Cannabinoid formulations and diagnostics.  Cannabics engages in developing individually tailored natural therapies for cancer patients, utilizing advanced screening systems and personalized bioinformatics tools.  (CPI 06.09)

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8.10  Teva Announces Sale of PARAGARD to CooperSurgical

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has entered into a definitive agreement under which Connecticut’s CooperSurgical will acquire PARAGARD (intrauterine copper contraceptive), a product within its global Women’s Health business, in a $1.1 billion cash transaction.  This transaction includes Teva’s manufacturing facility in Buffalo, NY, which produces PARAGARD exclusively.

Teva continues to actively pursue additional divestiture opportunities, including the sale of the remaining assets of its global Women’s Health business, as well as its Oncology and Pain businesses in Europe.  Teva continues to expect to generate at least $2 billion in total proceeds from the sale of these businesses, as well as additional asset sales to be executed by year end 2017.  With the divestiture of PARAGARD, and planned divestiture of other global Women’s Health products and the Oncology and Pain business in Europe, Teva is reinforcing its strategic focus on CNS and Respiratory as its core global therapeutic areas of focus within Global Specialty Medicines.  In these areas Teva maintains a strong pipeline and portfolio globally, and will continue to invest in creating long term value.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is a leading global pharmaceutical company that delivers high-quality, patient-centric healthcare solutions used by approximately 200 million patients in over 60 markets every day.  Headquartered in Israel, Teva is the world’s largest generic medicines producer, leveraging its portfolio of more than 1,800 molecules to produce a wide range of generic products in nearly every therapeutic area.  (Teva 11.09)

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8.11  CollPlant Signs Definitive Agreement for $5 Million Private Placement with US Investor

CollPlant announced the signing of a definitive agreement with a US investor for a $5 million private placement.  Closing of the first phase of the transaction is expected in mid-September.  As part of the agreement, and as previously announced, CollPlant will pursue an up-listing of its ADSs on the NASDAQ Exchange immediately following the first Closing.  The Company also announced that continued intention of several of its largest current shareholders to invest substantial additional capital through a subsequent, private placement transaction.

Ness Ziona’s CollPlant is a regenerative medicine company leveraging its proprietary, plant-based recombinant human collagen (rhCollagen) technology for the development and commercialization of tissue repair products, initially for the orthobiologics, 3D Bio-printing of tissue and organs, and advanced wound care markets.  The Company’s cutting-edge technology is designed to generate and process proprietary rhCollagen, among other patent-protected recombinant proteins.  Given that CollPlant’s rhCollagen is identical to the type I collagen produced by the human body, it offers significant advantages compared to currently marketed tissue-derived collagen, including improved biofunctionality, superior homogeneity and reduced risk of immune response.  (CollPlant 11.09)

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8.12  MyndYou Receives Funding From U.S. Investors

MyndYou announced that the company has received initial seed funding.  The round was led by renowned venture capitalist, Howard Lee Morgan, with participation from Musketeer Capital and additional private investors.  The funding will support collaborations already in place between MyndYou and several US-based partners including Massachusetts General Hospital.  In partnership with MyndYou, Mass General recently announced a research trial utilizing the MyndYou Intelligence platform for the remote, automated detection of subtle changes in speech patterns of Alzheimer’s patients.  MyndYou remains committed to providing service to the US market and the expanding population of over 16 million United States Seniors currently living with cognition-related disease.

Tel Aviv’s MyndYou optimizes the delivery of care for seniors living with mild and ongoing cognitive impairment.  The MyndYou artificial intelligence (AI) platform aids clinicians in tracking and addressing cognitive-related disease, such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s.  MyndYou combines one-on-one remote interaction with a seamless monitoring app, analytic evaluation, and artificial intelligence (AI) analysis to individualize care based on definitive and objective data.  MyndYou delivers actionable insights in real time to therapists and clinicians.  (MyndYou 12.09)

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8.13  Aspect Imaging Unveils Soft Tissue Contrast Capabilities for Its Compact MRI

Aspect Imaging is introducing a new Fluorescent Imaging Tomography (FLIT) combined with MRI Compact system, “FLIT-MRI system,” to enhance optical imaging in MRIs for soft tissue in small animal research.  Aspect Imaging’s user friendly, compact and efficient system enables the FLIT optical research community to fuse optical data with advanced soft tissue image quality.  Aspect Imaging is offering a cost-effective package for its Flit-MRI system, as part of a complementary and expanding suite of preclinical multi-modality imaging systems, including the VivoFuse 3D Optical BLI and MRI Fusion system for $323,000; and the SimPET Simultaneous Pet/MRI system for $699,000.  Aspect Imaging is also offering to upgrade existing 7T or 9.4T MRI systems to PET/MRI with its new PET insert for $349,000.

Shoham’s Aspect Imaging is a world leader in the design and development of complete, compact MRI and NMR systems.  Their unique technology platform is the backbone for a wide range of products, spanning preclinical, medical, oil and gas, and advanced industrial markets.  In the medical market, Aspect Imaging has several medical programs, including the recently FDA cleared Embrace neonatal MRI system and the WristView Hand and Wrist MRI System and a dedicated Stroke MRI for the ER which is under development.  (Aspect Imaging 14.09)

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8.14  MedReleaf Collaboration & Investment in Cannabis Grow Lighting Firm Flora Fotonica

Flora Fotonica and MedReleaf, Canada’s first and only ISO 9001 and ICH-GMP certified cannabis producer, signed a binding agreement to invest and collaborate on the research and development of specialized grow lighting systems for cannabis cultivation.  Flora Fotonica will provide MedReleaf with exclusive access to its proprietary LED lighting technology and MedReleaf will dedicate licensed growing space, laboratories and research personnel.  Financial terms of the agreement are not disclosed.

Modi’in’s Flora Fotonica has developed a proprietary lighting technology that is expected to enable significant increases to crops yield and active cannabinoids such as THC and CBD while substantially reducing energy consumption versus other LED lighting systems used in the industry today.  (MedReleaf 14.09)

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9.1  Technion Celebrates Opening of New Cornell Tech Campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island

Cornell Tech officially dedicated its new campus on Roosevelt Island.  The campus will expand the mission and impact of the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion – Cornell Institute – an academic partnership between Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Cornell University – and directly foster technological innovation in key New York City industries.

The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute was established in 2013 with a $133 million gift from Joan Klein Jacobs and Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, founding chairman and CEO emeritus of Qualcomm.  Since then, it has become a catalyst for global entrepreneurship and a driver of New York’s emerging tech ecosystem and local economy.  The Jacobs Institute draws upon professors, research and resources from both Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, a leading global research university that has been vital in Israel’s emergence as the “Startup Nation,” and Cornell, a longtime leader in engineering and computer science with a strong presence in New York City.

The Jacobs Institute’s master’s degree programs – in Connective Media and Health Tech – focus on driving innovation in industries in which New York City has historically excelled, while always remaining anchored in technology.  Graduates of these programs receive master’s degrees from both the Technion and Cornell – which, as of 2016, makes Technion the first international university to grant an accredited degree on U.S. soil.  The Connective Media graduate program, the first degree of its kind in the world, is centered on computer science and engineering, the human and social impacts of technology, and entrepreneurship.  The Health Tech graduate program, meanwhile, focuses on the cutting edge of transforming how healthcare is delivered and experienced, and was designed to develop innovative new products and services that address real healthcare needs.

The Runway Startup Program at the Jacobs Institute supports recent PhDs who are likewise able to draw on the resources New York City has to offer as they build on their research to develop tech companies on campus.  Over the past three years, Runway postdocs have founded 16 companies – from a smart baby monitor to an urban planning analytics platform – and collectively raised $19 million in funding.  (Technion 13.09)

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9.2  ECI Improves Efficiency of Smaller Edge and Metro Aggregation Optical Networks

ECI, a global provider of ELASTIC Network solutions for service providers, critical infrastructures and data center operators, announced the launch of the Apollo OPT9904X, which is designed to extend the benefits of OTN switching to metro networks that often have fluctuating, variable demand.  With the 9904x, these metro optical networks can deploy OTN switching exactly where, when and in the amount required to enjoy improved efficiency and flexibility at just the right price point.  As demand on optical networks continues to rise, OTN switching can be used to enhance network efficiency and reduce overall costs.  In the future, 5G and increased IoT demand will require more intelligent metro networks that can cope with latency sensitive applications, which can be facilitated effortlessly by OTN switching.

The OPT9904X is a part of ECI’s OTN switching line, designed to meet the unique switching requirements of metro networks.  The OPT9904X offers a unique expandable OTN interface and switching block that can be deployed on an as-needed basis.  This “fabric-less” design enables smooth switching capacity expansion in 200Gbps increments up to 800Gbps per shelf, scaling up to 1.6Tbps in the future, making the OPT9904X the most elastic and cost-effective overall solution for OTN in the metro.  The OPT9904X also integrates packet services, generating savings by aggregating L2 traffic and reducing the number of costly router ports.  As part of the Apollo family of optical transport and switching platforms, the OPT9904X delivers end-to-end transparent optical networking solutions for a broad range of needs, while maintaining the lowest cost per bit.

Petah Tikva’s ECI is a global provider of ELASTIC network solutions to CSPs, critical infrastructures as well as data center operators.  Along with its long-standing, industry-proven packet-optical transport, ECI offers a variety of SDN/NFV applications, end-to-end network management, a comprehensive cybersecurity solution and a range of professional services.  ECI’s ELASTIC solutions ensure open, future-proof, and secure communications.  With ECI, customers have the luxury of choosing a network that can be tailor-made to their needs today while being flexible enough to evolve with the changing needs of tomorrow.  (ECI 06.09)

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9.3  Pointer Telocation to Supply Connected Car Solution with a Leading Car Distributor in Israel

Pointer Telocation announced that it is to supply a connected car solution together with The Lubinski Group, the sole importer to Israel of Peugeot, Citroen, DS and MG vehicles.  The connected car solution is based on an Android infotainment solution, backed with Pointer’s added-value services.  These include services such as internet and radio, a library of approved applications, location based services, navigation, accident detection and real time support, parking, round-the-clock access to service and an emergency control room, car maintenance and reservation, push notifications as well as access to distributor promotions.

For over 20 years, Rosh HaAyin’s Pointer has rewritten the rules for the Mobile Resource Management (MRM) market and is a pioneer in the Connected Car segment.  Pointer has in-depth knowledge of the needs of this market and has developed a full suite of tools, technology and services to respond to them.  The vehicles of the future will be intimately networked with the outside world, enhancing and optimizing the in-car experience.  Pointer’s innovative and reliable cloud-based software-as-a-service (SAAS) platform extracts and captures an organization’s critical mobility data points – from office, drivers, routes, points-of-interest, logistic-network, vehicles, trailers, containers and cargo.  The SAAS platform analyzes the raw data converting it into valuable information for Pointer’s customers providing them with actionable insights and thus enabling the customers to improve their bottom line and increase their profitably.  (Pointer Telocation 05.09)

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9.4  GPSdome Starts Product Delivery to Autonomous Cars

GPSdome received a purchase order from a leading provider of autonomous car Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) for several GPSdome units to be integrated in its ADAS platform for field tests.  The purchase order followed successful field tests where GPSdome provided GPS protection for operating the ADAS platform under GPS jamming and spoofing conditions.  GPSdome was installed in a testing vehicle integrated with the ADAS platform in order to test its ability to protect its navigation and timing systems during a drive under jamming conditions.  The successful tests showed that the GPSdome-protected vehicle continued operating safely under jamming attacks and retained its GPS reception, while the unprotected vehicle lost the GPS signal.

Caesarea’s GPSdome developed a cyber protection solution against jamming and spoofing for GPS-based systems, such as autonomous vehicles and UAVs.  Its competitive advantage is its affordable price comparing to existing solutions that were developed for military applications, while GPSdome has been better designed for civilian applications.  The company’s development team includes electronic warfare (EW) engineers who previously worked for the defense industries, and have developed the GPSdome based on advanced military technologies.  (GPSdome 05.09)

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9.5  Datumate Recognized as Promising Construction Technology Solution Provider for 2017

Datumate was acknowledged as one of the “20 most promising construction technology solution providers 2017” by CIOReview’s Construction Technology special edition.  Datumate was chosen as part of the annual listing of 20 companies that are at the forefront of providing technology solution for the construction industry and impacting the marketplace.  A distinguished panel comprising CEOs, CIOs, VCs and analysts including CIOReview editorial board reviewed the top companies and shortlisted the ones that are at the forefront of bringing evolutionary changes to the construction domain.  The selected companies have exhibited extensive business process knowledge, along with innovative strategies in the construction landscape.

Datumate’s automated and digitalized approach to field data collection and analysis, brings the site to the office and extends beyond the surveyor, all the way to construction company management through project, finance, BIM, information and QA managers with time and cost savings that transcends through the project execution.

Yokneam’s Datumate is digitally transforming civil engineering processes used in Construction, Surveying and Infrastructure Inspection markets with fully automated, high precision and cost-effective solutions that keep field crews safe.  Datumate utilizes state-of-the-art computer vision, big data analytics, machine learning, drone and cameras technologies that dramatically reduce the amount of time surveying crews spend in the field, speed up construction progress checks and shorten infrastructure inspection duration, while maintaining survey grade accuracy.  (Datumate 05.09)

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9.6  Foresight Completes a Pilot Project with One of China’s Top Three Car Manufacturers

Foresight Autonomous Holdings announced that following its announcement about an agreement with one of China’s top three largest car manufacturers for a pilot project to test its Eyes-On advanced driver assistance system, the company has successfully completed the project and met the pre-defined requirements and criteria set for its success.  Eyes-On was tested in controlled and uncontrolled environments, in varying speeds and against both predefined and incidental targets.  The parties have agreed to examine possible directions for commercial cooperation over the next few months.

Ness Tziona’s Foresight, founded in 2015, is a technology company engaged in the design, development and commercialization of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) based on 3D video analysis, advanced algorithms for image processing and artificial intelligence.  The company, through its wholly owned subsidiary, develops advanced systems for accident prevention, which are designed to provide real-time information about the vehicle’s surroundings while in motion.  (Foresight 11.09)

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9.7  CyberArk Launches Open Source Secrets Management Solution for DevOps

CyberArk announced the availability of an open source version of CyberArk Conjur.  CyberArk Conjur enables DevOps teams to automatically secure and manage secrets used by machines and users to protect containerized and cloud-native applications across the DevOps pipeline.  With increased DevOps adoption comes an expanding attack surface with an exponential set of secrets that insiders and malicious external threat actors can misuse, target and exploit.  With CyberArk Conjur, DevOps teams gain the simplicity they need to incorporate security best practices into workflows.  Secrets management is easily embedded into the CI/CD process through certified integrations with leading developer toolsets.

CyberArk Conjur is the only platform-independent secrets management solution specifically architected for securing containers and microservices. It can be deployed to any cloud or on-premises environment and supports massive scale.  This solution allows DevOps teams to integrate security best practices into their cloud-native application development projects with ease, while giving security teams assurance that security and compliance best practices are being applied to these dynamic environments, without creating new security silos.

Petah Tikva’s CyberArk is the only security company focused on eliminating the most advanced cyber threats; those that use insider privileges to attack the heart of the enterprise.  Dedicated to stopping attacks before they stop business, CyberArk proactively secures against cyber threats before attacks can escalate and do irreparable damage.  The company is trusted by the world’s leading companies – including more than 50% of the Fortune 100 – to protect their highest value information assets, infrastructure and applications.  (CyberArk 06.09)

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9.8  Mellanox and Accelink Partner to Provide 100Gb/s PSM4 Ethernet Transceivers

Mellanox Technologies and Accelink Technologies, a leading Chinese manufacturer of end-to-end optoelectronics components, introduced a 1550nm 100Gb/s PSM4 transceiver based on the silicon photonics optical engine from Mellanox.  Serving the growing demand of hyperscale Web 2.0 and cloud interconnects, the new Accelink transceiver provides customers with an additional source and full interoperability with PSM4 transceivers from Mellanox.  The Mellanox optical engine solution was announced earlier this year at OFC 2017.  The components are fully qualified for use in low-cost, electronics-style packaging, ensuring a low-risk, and quick time to market.  Because the Mellanox silicon photonics platform eliminates the need for complex optical alignment of lenses, isolators, and laser subassemblies, customers can scale to high volume manufacturing easier and faster than using traditional technologies.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies is a leading supplier of end-to-end InfiniBand and Ethernet smart interconnect solutions and services for servers and storage.  Mellanox interconnect solutions increase data center efficiency by providing the highest throughput and lowest latency, delivering data faster to applications and unlocking system performance capability.  (Mellanox 06.09)

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9.9  Renovo & Argus Deliver First Cyber Secure Vehicles for Automated Mobility on Demand

Campbell, California’s Renovo, a groundbreaking mobility software technology company, and Argus Cyber Security announced a partnership to incorporate Argus’ patented Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS) technology into Renovo’s AWare automated mobility operating system.  The partnership will also see the companies cooperate on further integration of advanced, multi-layered cybersecurity solutions with AWare for the fast-growing automated mobility on-demand (AMoD) market.

Cyber security and privacy challenges in the automotive sector are growing significantly as vehicles become increasingly connected and automated and as the number of heterogeneous applications and services that run on the vehicle or interact with it rises.  This partnership between Renovo and Argus – the first-ever initiative to introduce cyber security into AMoD – will draw on each company’s core competencies to proactively deliver solutions to address these challenges.

Tel Aviv’s Argus, the global leader in automotive cyber security, provides comprehensive and proven solution suites to protect connected cars and commercial vehicles against cyber-attacks.  With decades of experience in both cyber security and the automotive industry, Argus offers innovative security methods and proven computer networking know-how with a deep understanding of automotive best practices.  (Renovo 11.09)

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9.10  Portugal Telecom Selects AudioCodes’ SIP Trunking Solutions for its All-IP Network Transformation Project

AudioCodes announced that AudioCodes’ Mediant multi-service business routers (MSBR) have been selected by Portugal Telecom for a large-scale, multi-year SIP trunk project.  The project is part of Portugal Telecom’s recent steps to implement its vision of transitioning to an all-IP infrastructure, an increasingly popular trend in the industry.

The AudioCodes Mediant MSBR family includes a range of scalable devices that offer VoIP connectivity, data routing and security together with a range of WAN interface options, all housed in a single, compact platform.  The MSBR integrated session border controller (SBC) functionality delivers extensive SIP interoperability enabling voice quality monitoring for better SLA enforcement utilizing AudioCodes VoIPerfect technology.  Virtually any customer IP-PBX (including Microsoft Skype for Business) can connect seamlessly with Portugal Telecom’s infrastructure.  The devices support a range of WAN interfaces including Gigabit Ethernet, ADSL and VDSL2 (including vectoring), as well as BRI and PRI ISDN interfaces for customers with legacy PBX equipment.  Voice encryption is supported across all of AudioCodes’ voice connectivity platforms, including MSBR, to ensure secure communications for Portugal Telecom’s business customers.

Lod’s AudioCodes designs, develops and sells advanced Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and converged VoIP and Data networking products and applications to Service Providers and Enterprises.  AudioCodes is a VoIP technology market leader, focused on converged VoIP and data communications and its products are deployed globally in Broadband, Mobile, Enterprise networks and Cable.  The Company provides a range of innovative, cost-effective products including Media Gateways, Multi-Service Business Routers, Session Border Controllers (SBC), Residential Gateways, IP Phones, Media Servers, Value Added Applications and Professional Services.  (AudioCodes 11.09)

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9.11  AdaSky Launches Thermal FIR Sensing Solution to Give Vehicles 24/7 Vision

Yokneam’s AdaSky, a startup comprised of industry veterans from the Israeli semiconductor and sensor market, launches the first Far Infrared (FIR) perception solution specifically designed for the automotive industry.  The solution combines an FIR thermal camera with advanced computer vision algorithms to let autonomous vehicles see and understand the road and their surroundings in any conditions.

AdaSky’s first product, Viper, is comprised of a high-performing thermal camera and state-of-the-art machine vision algorithms, together in one complete solution, that can be added to any autonomous vehicle to enable it to see better and analyze its surroundings.  Viper passively collects FIR signals through detection of thermal energy radiated from objects and their body heat.  AdaSky’s algorithms process the signals collected by the camera to provide accurate object detection and scene analysis, giving the vehicle the ability to precisely detect pedestrians at a few hundreds of meters, allowing more distance in which to react to driving decisions.

Viper is the first high-resolution, thermal camera for autonomous vehicles with minimal size, weight and power consumption and no moving parts – at a price suited for mass market.  Viper generates a new layer of information, originated from a different band of the electromagnetic spectrum, significantly increasing performance for classification, identification, and detection of objects and of vehicle surroundings, both near and far range.  (AdaSky 11.09)

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9.12  Inuitive Introduces NU4000, an Advanced 3D Imaging, Deep Learning and Computer Vision Processor

Inuitive has introduced the NU4000, a superior multi-core vision processor that supports 3D Imaging, Deep Learning and Computer Vision processing for Augmented and Virtual Reality, Drones, Robots and other applications.  This next generation processor enables high quality depth sensing, “On-chip SLAM,” Computer Vision and Deep Learning (CNN) capabilities in affordable form factor and minimized power consumption, leading the way for smarter user experiences.  Combining high performance and flexibility, the powerful core-processors backed by hardware accelerators reduce latency to less than 1mSec, delivering an enhanced augmented and virtual reality experience.  The NU4000’s deep Learning Engine enables object detection, classification and recognition, and scene understanding.

Ra’anana’s Inuitive optimizes consumer experiences and enhances competitive advantages in the areas of Augmented & Virtual Reality, Drones, Robots and Autonomous Cars, among others.  Inuitive combines algorithms, ASIC, and System solution to realize the AI practice enabling devices to acquire more human capabilities.  With AI at its core, Inuitive’s platform includes a 3D Depth Sensing Computer Vision processor and powerful deep learning capabilities enabling smart devices to become smarter.  (Inuitive 07.09)

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9.13  Mobileye and Munich Re, US Announce Collaboration to Reduce Automotive Collisions

Mobileye announced a unique collaboration intended to reduce commercial fleet collisions and enhance road safety in the United States.  Beginning immediately, Munich Reinsurance America Inc. (Munich Re, US) will make available Mobileye’s aftermarket Advanced Collision Avoidance System to its clients, including commercial fleets.  The new program will provide Munich Re, US clients with the option of retrofitting existing vehicles with Mobileye ADAS technology, designed to help mitigate the potential for collisions among fleets and improve driver behavior through the use of warning signals.  Munich Re, US will also conduct a loss analysis to help quantify the potential impact of Mobileye’s technology on a client company’s portfolio of commercial fleet business.

Mobileye’s aftermarket life-saving ADAS system alerts drivers of impending collisions so that the driver can react in time to take action.  Enabled by a high-resolution vision sensor that analyzes potential hazardous scenarios in real time, the cutting-edge technology provides warnings in advance of potential forward collisions, dangerous contact with pedestrians and cyclists, and unintentional lane departures.  The system consists of a windshield-mounted vision sensor and a visual display unit mounted in the cabin.

Jerusalem’s Mobileye, an Intel Company is the global leader in the development of computer vision and machine learning, data analysis, localization and mapping for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and autonomous driving.  Their technology keeps passengers safer on the roads, reduces the risks of traffic accidents, saves lives and has the potential to revolutionize the driving experience by enabling autonomous driving.  Their proprietary software algorithms and EyeQ chips perform detailed interpretations of the visual field in order to anticipate possible collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, animals, debris and other obstacles.  (Mobileye 12.09)

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9.14  ASOCS Launches On-Premise Mobile Cloud for Enterprises

ASOCS introduced Cyrus, an on-premise mobile cloud for enterprises that addresses the mobile connectivity, capacity and security challenges associated with true digital transformation.  By giving enterprises ownership and control of their mobile networks, Cyrus fundamentally changes how users wirelessly connect with and leverage the internet inside large buildings and venues such as corporate offices, sports arenas, mixed-use buildings, retail establishments, hotels, hospitals, and more.  While current wireless connectivity solutions don’t provide enterprises with sufficient capacity, aggregated data analytics, or a satisfying user experience, the Cyrus cloud solution guarantees high-bandwidth mobile data and provides a rich database of the “who, what, where and when” aspects of network activity.  Cyrus also delivers secure connectivity while collecting and analyzing mobile device and IoT data.

Rosh HaAyin’s ASOCS empowers mobile digital transformation in the enterprise.  The company’s on-premise edge cloud solutions enable unlimited mobile network capacity and secure connectivity while collecting and analyzing mobile device and IoT data, allowing enterprises to deliver and monetize new services and applications.  Privately-held ASOCS serves retail, real estate, corporate offices, hospitality, hospitals and sports and entertainment markets.  (ASOCS 12.09)

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9.15  Elbit Systems’ U.S. Subsidiary to Provide In-Fill Radar & Tower System to U.S. Customs

Elbit Systems announced that its subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America was awarded a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract to provide a tower and in-fill radar system that supplies a complete capability to detect flying objects in highly cluttered environments.  The contract, in an amount that is not material to Elbit Systems, will be performed in Texas.  Elbit Systems of America has partnered with C Speed to incorporate its LightWave Radar technology used for detecting small and low-flying airborne threats in a high clutter environment.  C Speed’s LightWave radar has also been deployed worldwide and enables to detect flying targets also in areas where wind turbines are operating, producing electricity which is a disturbance to standard radars.

Haifa’s Elbit Systems is an international high technology company engaged in a wide range of defense, homeland security and commercial programs throughout the world.  The Company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (“C4ISR”), unmanned aircraft systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, signal intelligence systems, data links and communications systems, radios and cyber-based systems.  (Elbit Systems 12.09)

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9.16  CHILI CINEMA Turns to Beamr Optimizer to Reduce Bitrate and Improve Video Streaming Quality

Beamr Imaging announced that Milan-based CHILI, a leading player in the Italian market for the online distribution of film and television series across a multitude of connected and mobile devices, will be optimizing their entire video library using Beamr Optimizer for more than 1 million subscribers in the UK, Poland, Germany and Austria, in addition to Italy.

Beamr Optimizer is proven to enable faster video start times with up to a 50% reduction in rebuffering events and video file sizes – without introducing artifacts or ABR incompatibilities, by keeping inside the standard of H.264.  The secret is inside Beamr’s patented perceptual quality measure, which operates at the frame level making it the most advanced content-adaptive implementation in the world.  As a result, CHILI will be offering its viewers higher quality viewing experiences that will lead to increased engagement and ARPU.

Tel Aviv’s Beamr is the leading provider of content-adaptive video encoding and optimization solutions for the world’s top MSOs, OTT streaming service providers, Hollywood studios, video distribution platforms and social content publishers.  Beamr’s high-performance H.264/AVC and H.265/HEVC video processing solutions are fully scalable for use in on-premise and cloud deployments.  (Beamr 12.09)

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9.17  OriginGPS Demos IoT Device Developed in 6 Weeks

OriginGPS teamed with partners Friendly Technologies, a leading IoT and TR-069 device management company, and Humavox, an innovative wireless charging expert, to create an IoT-connected baseball.  Friendly’s IoT platform interfaces the OriginIoT to enable communication, management and GUI, while Humavox’s compact Wi-Fi-charging bowl re-energizes the system.  The OriginIoT effectively resolves inherent costly issues to IoT developments; namely long project cycles and required embedded software expertise.  It expedites development cycles, and eliminates the need for embedded coding and RF engineering, resulting in substantial cuts in development resources.  With OriginGPS’ superior cellular-GNSS integrated in the IoT cellular system, this smart baseball is a proof of concept for rapid and accessible IoT development.

Airport City’s OriginGPS develops integrated, miniaturized GNSS and IoT solutions with the smallest footprint on the market for verticals, such as smart cities, drones, asset tracking, wearables, automotive, and IoT.  Ramat Gan’s Friendly Technologies is a leading provider of carrier-class platforms for IoT, Smart Home and TR-069 device management.  Its unified IoT platform is ideal for utilities, transportation, smart cities and more.  Kfar Saba’s Humavox’ proprietary RF wireless charging technology (Eterna Platform) is aimed at providing an advanced wireless charging solution with exceptional spatial freedom for wearables and IoT devices, while exact alignment or product placement is not required.  (OriginGPS 12.09)

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9.18  Minerva Launches Enterprise-Grade Malware Vaccination Solution to Immunize Endpoints

Minerva announced the release of the industry’s first Endpoint Malware Vaccination module for enterprises.  As part of their ground-breaking Anti-Evasion Platform, this new tool helps simulate infection markers across enterprise endpoints to deceive malware into believing it has already infected the system.  This unique approach allows Minerva’s customers to prevent infections even if other defensive capabilities were unable to block the attack.  Building upon its core capability to deceive malware into inaction, Minerva has taken the concept of vaccination beyond simply a “cool idea” for lab environments and allowed this technique to be deployed at an enterprise level to expand the endpoint defender’s arsenal.  Key benefits of the new Endpoint Malware Vaccination tool include:

Minerva was recently granted a patent for their technology layer that forms the Anti-Evasion Platform.  The addition of Endpoint Malware Vaccination to Minerva’s solution builds upon this patent and reinforces the unique and innovative way in which the company protects against malware designed to evade existing security tools.

Petah Tikva’s Minerva is an innovative endpoint security solution provider that protects enterprises from today’s stealthiest attacks without the need to detect threats first, all before any damage has been done.  Minerva Anti-Evasion Platform blocks unknown threats which evade existing defenses by deceiving the malware and controlling how it perceives its environment.  Without relying on signatures, models or behavioral patterns, Minerva’s solution deceives the malware and causes it to disarm itself, thwarting it before the need to engage costly security resources.  (Minerva 12.09)

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9.19  PacketLight Launches PL-2000DC Delivering 1.6T DCI Capacity Fiber Networking Solution

PacketLight Networks announced the launch of the PL-2000DC 1U platform, designed for high capacity data center interconnect (DCI), metro and long haul networks.  The product meets capacity demands of up to 16 x 100G LAN and OTU4, and provides market leading modularity with four 400G pluggable drawers and optic modules, delivering up to 1.6T in a 1U chassis.  The PL-2000DC is a dynamic solution that delivers performance monitoring for both the line optical transport layer (OTN) and 100G LAN/OTU4 service interfaces.  The optical interfaces and services are, interoperable with all third party switches and routers in order to give enterprises maximum ability to grow their infrastructure in a vendor-agnostic environment.  The PL-2000DC is compact and has low power consumption to meet the market demands for reduced CAPEX and OPEX.

PacketLight Networks offers a suite of leading 1U metro and long haul CWDM/DWDM and OTN solutions, as well as Layer-1 optical encryption for transport of data, storage, voice and video applications over dark fiber and WDM networks.  PacketLight provides the entire optical layer transport solution within a highly integrated compact platform, designed for high capacity, maximum flexibility, easy maintenance and operation, with real pay-as-you-grow architecture, while maintaining a high level of reliability and low cost.  (PacketLight 13.09)

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9.20  Epsilor to Introduce Soldier Wearable Power and Communication System

Epsilor has developed a new Soldier Wearable Power Communication System under the name NETWALKER.  NETWALKER offers the following advantages:

*Personal interconnected communication system – Today’s soldiers operate many different digital devices. These include sensors and target acquisition systems that transfer visual information and data to the tactical computer where the soldier can manually add information.  This data is transmitted to the command and control center.  The new NETWALKER facilitates two-way communication flow, enabling the fighter to acquire and transmit targets and, in parallel, receive information from his/her command center.  The NETWALKER conveys information between all the soldier wearable gear via a set of cables.

*Central wearable ergonomic battery – NETWALKER eliminates the need to carry numerous batteries for different devices. The new system, which includes a lightweight ergonomic flexible battery, charges all soldier wearable devices, ensuring efficient energy management.  The whole system is integrated into the textile vest, offering maximum comfort.

Epsilor, together with sister company Electric Fuel Battery (EFB), now merged with UEC Electronics, was the first to offer a Soldier Wearable Integrated Power Equipment System (SWIPES) which was recognized by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command as ‘One of the U.S. Army’s Ten Greatest Inventions of 2010’.

Dimona’s Epsilor is a globally recognized developer and manufacturer of battery packs and chargers for the military, defense, aerospace, industrial and marine markets.  The company’s expertise lies in its close familiarity with a wide range of defense and military applications, a wide variety of electro-chemistries, sophisticated battery management systems (BMS) and wearable systems and chargers.  Epsilor’s products have won several awards for their innovation and operational approach.  (Epsilor 13.09)

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9.21  SuperCom Awarded 8-Year Contract for ePassport and National ID Card System in Iceland

SuperCom has won an 8-year contract for the development, delivery and maintenance of a new central personalization system for electronic passports and polycarbonate national electronic ID cards, for Iceland.  SuperCom was awarded the contract following an international open tender during which 12 companies submitted proposals.  The proposed system, based on SuperCom’s cyber secure Magna National Population Registry platform, will personalize those cards and e-passport booklets, graphically and electronically, and will protect those documents against forgery in compliance with the highest international standards.  SuperCom’s system will interface directly with the customer’s various environmental IT and legacy systems and SuperCom will also maintain and support the new system throughout the duration of the contract.  SuperCom delivered the current ePassport and eID card personalization system to Register Iceland in 2007.  SuperCom’s original system is running perfectly and has been maintained flawlessly.

Since 1988, Herzliya’s SuperCom has been a global provider of traditional and digital identity solutions, providing advanced safety, identification and security solutions to governments and organizations, both private and public, throughout the world.  Through its proprietary e-Government platforms and innovative solutions for traditional and biometrics enrollment, personalization, issuance and border control services, SuperCom has inspired governments and national agencies to design and issue secured Multi-ID documents and robust digital identity solutions to its citizens and visitors.  (SuperCom 06.09)

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9.22  Daimler Trucks Teams Up With Innovation Leader for Electric Charging StoreDot

Daimler AG’s Trucks division is investing in StoreDot as part of their financing round.  A representative from Daimler will be appointed to StoreDot’s Board of Directors.  The Tel Aviv-based company founded in 2012 is a nanotechnology materials pioneer and one of the leading companies for electric charging and energy-storage materials.

Complementing the investment, both partners have agreed to a strategic partnership that focuses on the field of fast battery charging.  StoreDot’s FlashBattery technology enables charging any electric vehicle within minutes, as quickly as filling a tank of gas.  Furthermore, FlashBattery’s high efficiency in recuperation is particularly interesting for commercial vehicles; better usage of braking energy increases the range and requires less frequent charging.  This results, together with faster charging times, in higher vehicle usage.  Both partners will jointly work on tailor-made, integrated technologies, with the future-generation FUSO eCanter as a possible example of application.  The possibility of further joint projects, even beyond the Trucks division, is part of both companies’ future discussions.

Tel Aviv’s StoreDot was founded in 2012 and is an innovation leader in materials and device applications, developing ground-breaking technologies based on a unique methodology for the design, synthesis and manufacturing of organic compounds.  Designed to replace known technologies with enhanced chemical, electrical and optical properties, StoreDot’s proprietary technology, inspired by nature, can be optimized for multiple industries, including fast-charging batteries in mobile devices, electric vehicles and for next-generation LCD displays.  (Daimler North America 14.09)

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9.23  Renovo & Argus to Deliver First Cyber Secure Vehicles for Automated Mobility on Demand

Campbell, California’s Renovo, a groundbreaking mobility software technology company, and Argus Cyber Security announced a partnership to incorporate Argus’ patented Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS) technology into Renovo’s AWare automated mobility operating system.  The partnership will also see the companies cooperate on further integration of advanced, multi-layered cybersecurity solutions with AWare for the fast-growing automated mobility on-demand (AMoD) market.

Cyber security and privacy challenges in the automotive sector are growing significantly as vehicles become increasingly connected and automated and as the number of heterogeneous applications and services that run on the vehicle or interact with it rises.  This partnership between Renovo and Argus – the first-ever initiative to introduce cyber security into AMoD – will draw on each company’s core competencies to proactively deliver solutions to address these challenges.

Argus, the global leader in automotive cyber security, provides comprehensive and proven solution suites to protect connected cars and commercial vehicles against cyber-attacks. With decades of experience in both cyber security and the automotive industry, Argus offers innovative security methods and proven computer networking know-how with a deep understanding of automotive best practices. Customers include car manufacturers, their Tier 1 suppliers, fleet operators and aftermarket connectivity providers. Founded in 2013, Argus is headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, with offices in Michigan, Silicon Valley, Stuttgart and Tokyo.  (Argus 15.09)

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10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rates Rises by 0.3% During August

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics announced on 15 September that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.3% in August, returns in line with market expectations.  Price inflation for the year to date in Israel is 0.2%.  For the twelve months to the end of August, the inflation reading is negative 0.1%.

There were notable rises in August in prices of fresh produce (5.4%) and culture and entertainment (1.8%).  There were notable falls in prices of clothing and footwear (3.6%), telecommunications (2.4%) and fresh fruit (1.6%).  The housing price index for June-July rose 0.4% in comparison with May-June.  The housing price index is published separately from the CPI, and covers transactions in the preceding two months.  In the twelve months to the end of July, housing prices rose 4.4%, which compares with a 4.5% rise in the twelve months to the end of June.  (CBS 15.09)

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10.2  Foreign Investment in Israel Increases by 7%

Investments in Israel by foreign companies totaled $12.6 billion in 2016, 7% more than in 2015, according to the Ministry of Economy and Industry Industrial Cooperation and Foreign Investments Authority.  The figures show that 320 multinational companies operate in Israel and the pace at which such companies are starting to do business in Israel has tripled from 10 a decade ago to 30 in 2016.  The Foreign Investments Authority also reported that almost 10% of all employees in the business sector work at multinationals doing business in Israel.  The average salary at these companies is 88% higher than the average salary in local companies and 14% higher than the average salary in local companies doing similar business.

According to the published figures, foreign companies operating in Israel account for half of total business R&D spending, and have 50,000 employees in this sphere.  Some 200 of the foreign industrial companies operating in Israel have both production and R&D activity in the country.  The Foreign Investment Authority expressed satisfaction with the figures, particularly in view of the fact that global foreign investment declined 2% in 2016.

The Ministry of Economy and Industry reports contacts with at least 10 multinationals or their subsidiaries concerning possible investment in Israel, but declines to specify which companies are involved.  It was recently reported that Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo intended to invest in Israel, and to establish activity in the country, while considering the acquisition of local companies in the coming years, and also opening development or production centers.

In another case, senior Ministry of Economy and Industry officials are holding intensive talks with a multinational that already has activity in Israel for a substantial investment that will significantly expand its business in Israel.  (Globes 07.09)

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10.3  Israel Collects Record Tax Revenues in August

Figures published on 6 September by the Ministry of Finance show that state tax revenues totaled a record NIS 27.7 billion in August.  The Ministry of Finance noted that this included NIS 3.4 billion in capital gains tax on the sale of Mobileye shares to Intel and the offering by Tamar Petroleum.  Tax revenues totaled NIS 204.6 billion in January-August, 7.2% more in nominal terms than in the corresponding period last year.  Spending by government ministries in January-August, excluding payment of principle and interest on government debt, totaled NIS 196 billion, 9.6% more than in January-August 2016, using the same measuring definitions.  Spending by civilian ministries rose 8.4%, while defense spending was up 13.9%.  Excluding changes in the dates of payments, however, brought the rise in defense spending down to 5.9%.

The record tax revenues pushed the current budget deficit over the past 12 months down to 2.3%, after it climbed to 2.6% two months ago.  The 2017 budget deficit target is 2.9%.  The state treasury is still owed NIS 1 billion in tax revenue from the Mobileye deal and the Tamar Petroleum offering.  The Israeli shareholders in Mobileye are expected to pay NIS 4 billion in capital gains taxes, and the Delek Drilling Limited Partnership is expected to pay NIS 500 million more on the sale of 9.2% of the shares in the Tamar gas reservoir to Delek Petroleum.  (Globes 06.09)

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10.4  Tourist Entries into Israel Increase by 20% in August

Some 2.3 million tourists entered Israel in January-August 2017, 24% more than the 1.8 million who entered during the corresponding period last year.  Some 253,800 tourists visited Israel in August, a 20% increase.  There were 57,200 tourist entries from the US in August, 33% more than in August 2016.  Tourist entries from Poland soared 60%.  The Ministry of Tourism estimates that incoming tourism has contributed $3.4 billion to the economy so far this year.

Israel Hotel Association figures show an average occupancy rate of 65%.  Hotel prices in Israel are notoriously high, including for tourists.  In order to bolster competition in the sector and increase the supply of medium-rated tourist hotels, the Ministry of Tourism is offering grants to developers wishing to build hotels.  The Ministry of Tourism reports a large increase in the number of developers seeking grants this year, especially for rooms at popular prices.  Requests were submitted for construction of 5,245 rooms in 2017, compared with 2,895 rooms in 2015.  The number of grant requests this year specifically for construction of lower priced rooms is 1,781, compared with 625 in 2015.  Other measures include regulatory concessions applying to hoteliers, although there is still room for much improvement in this aspect, for example the levies and taxes paid by hotels all during the year.  (Globes 12.09)

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11.1  ISRAEL:  Profile Supported by Economic Resilience, Effective Governance & Falling Debt Ratios

Israel’s (A1 stable) credit profile is supported by economic resilience, as well as high average wealth levels, strong competitiveness, effective governance and steadily declining debt ratios, Moody’s Investors Service said in a new annual report.

The report, “Government of Israel – A1 stable Annual credit analysis”, said “Israel’s economic growth has outpaced that of other advanced industrial countries over the past decade, driven by its high-tech export niche and a diversified economic base that now includes its status as an energy exporter.”

Annual growth remained robust in the first half of 2017, rising by 3.7% and 4.0% in the first two quarters.  Moody’s expects domestic demand to help it to close out the year at 3.5%.  In Moody’s central scenario, real GDP is forecast to expand by 3.4% in 2018, partly reflecting a further rise in investment specifically related to Leviathan, a large offshore natural gas field.  Risks to Moody’s forecasts include continued weak demand from Israel’s trading partners.  Israel’s fiscal strength is supported by improved government debt and debt service metrics in 2016.

In addition, the country’s fiscal strength is likely to benefit over the medium-term from the discovery of offshore gas reserves, particularly once production begins at Leviathan.  Revenue from gas production and exports will help shrink deficits further.  The government is also developing a sovereign wealth fund, which will serve as a cushion.

Israel’s geopolitical challenges include territorial disputes with the Palestinians, civil strife and conflict in Egypt and Syria, the presence of Islamic State on Israel’s borders and continued tensions with Iran.

However, in Moody’s view, there is little risk that geopolitical events could undermine the government or bring to power an administration that differed in any substantial manner on fiscal or economic policy.  A substantial further reduction in government debt levels, an easing of geopolitical tensions or a reduction in Israel’s complex regulatory framework could generate upward pressure on Israel’s creditworthiness.

Conversely, the rating or outlook could come under downward pressure if Israel’s commitment to fiscal discipline over the medium-term wanes.  The rating also could be downgraded if geopolitical risks pose increased challenges to Israel’s economic or financial stability.  (Moody’s 06.09)

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11.2  ISRAEL:  Israel’s Foreign Trade, Export & Import of Goods – August 2017

 In August 2017, Israel’s imports of goods totaled NIS 22.0 billion, exports of goods totaled NIS 15.3 billion and the trade deficit of goods totaled NIS 6.7 billion.

Israel’s exports of goods in January – August 2017, as a percentage of imports (excluding ships, aircraft and diamonds), constituted 74.9%, compared with 75.5% in the same months in 2016.  The trade deficit (of goods only) in January-August 2017 totaled NIS 33.0 billion, compared with NIS 34.8 billion in January – August 2016.

The import of goods (excluding ship, aircraft, diamonds and fuels) increased by 1.6% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, according to trend data, following a decrease of 0.2% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.

Exports of goods (excluding ships, aircraft and diamonds) decreased by 4.0% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, according to trend data, following a decrease of 11.0% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.

Trade in goods in August 2017 was influenced by changes in the value of the NIS relative to the other currencies in which import and export transactions were conducted.  In August 2017, the NIS weakened relative to most of the currencies; by 1.4% relative to the US Dollar, by 1.1% relative to the Pound Sterling, by 1% relative to the Swiss Franc, by 3.9% relative to the Euro and by 3.7% relative to the Japanese Yen.

Imports of Goods

Imports of goods in August 2017 totaled, as mentioned above, NIS 22.0 billion.  Some 42% of the total imports were imports of raw materials (excluding diamonds and fuels); 21% were imports of consumer goods; 18% were imports of machinery, equipment and land vehicles for investment; and 19% were imports of diamonds, fuels, ships and aircraft.

Trend data point to a decrease in imports of raw materials (excluding diamonds and fuels) of 0.2% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, following an increase of 3.0% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.

A breakdown by groups shows that imports of raw food products decreased by 23.4% at an annual rate (-2.2% monthly average) and imports raw materials for the agriculture decreased by 9.3% at an annual rate.

Trend data point to a decrease in imports of investment goods (excluding ships and aircraft) of 3.4% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, following a decrease of 12.5% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.  A breakdown by groups shows that imports of machinery and equipment (64% of investment imports) decreased by 2.6% at an annual rate and imports of transport equipment for investment decreased by 20.4% at annual rate (-1.9% monthly average).

Imports of consumer goods (based on trend data) increased by 3.0% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, following an increase of 5.2% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.  Imports of non-durable goods (medicines, food and beverages, and clothing and footwear) increased by 7.7% at an annual rate in June – August 2017.  Imports of durable goods (furniture, electrical equipment and transport equipment) decreased by 5.7% at an annual rate.  Most of the decrease was in imports of transport equipment which decreased by 33.7% at an annual rate (-3.4% monthly average).

Imports of diamonds (net, rough and polished) in January-August 2017 totaled NIS 13.3 billion, compared with NIS 16.0 billion in the same period of 2016.

Imports of fuels (crude oil, distillates and coal) in January-August 2017 totaled NIS 17.4 billion; an 18.7% increase compared with January – August 2016.

Exports of Goods

Exports of goods totaled, as mentioned above, NIS 15.3 billion in August 2017.  Manufacturing, mining and quarrying exports (excluding diamonds) constituted 90% of all exports of goods.  Exports of diamonds constituted 9% and the remaining 1% were agriculture, forestry and fishing exports.

Trend data point to a decrease in manufacturing, mining and quarrying exports (excluding diamonds) of 1.7% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, following a decrease of 10.1% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.

 Trend Data of Manufacture Exports, By Technological Intensity

Trend data point to a decrease in exports by high technology industries (48% of total manufactured exports) of 3.6% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, following a decrease of 4.8% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.  A breakdown by economic activity shows that exports of the manufacture of electronic components and boards industry decreased by 18.0% at an annual rate.

Trend data point to an increase in exports by medium-high technology industries (32% of total manufactured exports) of 2.1% at an annual rate in June – August 2017, following a decrease of 0.1% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.  A breakdown by economic activity shows that exports of the manufacture of electrical equipment industry increased by 26.1% at an annual rate (1.9% monthly average).

Diagram 4 – Manufacturing Exports by Technological Intensity

Trend data point to a decrease in exports by medium-low technology industries (13% of total manufactured exports) of 11.9% at an annual rate in the last three months, following a decrease of 33.4% at an annual rate in March – May 2017 (-3.3% monthly average).  A breakdown by economic activity shows that exports of the manufacture of basic metals industry decreased by 28.7% at an annual rate (-2.8% monthly average).

Trend data point to a decrease in exports by low technology industries (7% of total manufacture exports) of 7.3% an annual rate in June – August 2017, following a decrease of 15.2% at an annual rate in March – May 2017.

A breakdown by economic activity shows that exports of the manufacture of jewelry industry decreased by 25.0% at an annual rate (-2.4% monthly average).

Exports of diamonds (net, polished and rough), in January – August 2017, totaled NIS 17.2 billion (original data) compared with NIS 19.3 billion in the same period of 2016.

Agricultural, forestry and fishing exports in January – August 2017 totaled NIS 3.1 billion (original data), a decrease of 1.5% compared with the same period in 2016.  Exports of growing of non-perennial crops decreased by 11.8% in the same period.  (CBS 13.09)

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11.3  SYRIA:  Is Reconstruction Syria’s Next Battleground?

Benedetta Berti posted in Sada on 5 September that the Syrian regime is turning to reconstruction to boost legitimacy and consolidate control, a process that also benefits its external allies.

In the bloody and protracted Syrian conflict, the humanitarian space has been heavily constrained.  Different warring parties grant or withhold humanitarian access to advance their military strategies and political objectives.  The Syrian regime has relied on the distribution of international aid to reward loyalty, punish dissent, further civilian dependency on it and undermine the creation of alternative political orders.  Similarly, war-driven logics now appear to be playing a prominent role in the discussions on how to begin rebuilding the country, with the regime relying on reconstruction to boost legitimacy and consolidate control.

Reconstruction will constitute an enormous task; over the past six years, Syria has suffered cumulative GDP losses around $226 billion, seen half of its population displaced by conflict, and witnessed substantial damage to its civilian infrastructure.  A 2017 World Bank report estimates that up to 27% of houses in the assessed urban centers have been either destroyed or damaged, and total reconstruction costs are estimated between $200 and $350 billion.

However, reconstruction is also an opportunity to reconfigure the urban landscape of Syria’s most important cities and, in doing so, to reshape or consolidate political and power dynamics.  Rehabilitating houses, services and infrastructure is a highly political process that offers domestic actors and external powers a chance to increase their leverage and influence and shape the future of Syria.

In the case of Syria, key questions related to reconstruction pertain to which cities or neighborhoods are prioritized in the rebuilding process: how and for whom they are rebuilt, and who gets to decide and implement the renewal projects.  These issues are important in all post-conflict reconstruction processes, but they are especially relevant in the Syrian context, where rebuilding has begun separately from a national process of political settlement or societal reconciliation.

Conventional wisdom on post-conflict recovery and reconstruction postulates that physical rebuilding, economic recovery, political reforms and societal reconciliation should all proceed in tandem to shift a country from war to peace.  However, in Syria, there is a risk that the bulk of the reconstruction and economic recovery will continue to proceed in isolation from negotiations to end hostilities.  Under these circumstances, reconstruction can easily become a tool to consolidate war gains and existing power dynamics, preventing or complicating – rather than supporting – a war-to-peace transition.

The main projects aimed at rebuilding residential areas of war-torn Syria over the past year – including in the Damascus, Homs and Aleppo metropolitan areas – have already seen some of these dynamics linked to politicization of reconstructions.  A first readily observable trend linked to reconstruction is how rebuilding is proving an effective system for the government to reward and strengthen local allies, consolidating power even as it devolves the authority for rebuilding locally.  This is achieved in two main ways: first, by directly awarding reconstruction tenders to local authorities, government-backed NGOs, private actors and ad-hoc public-private local partnerships, all according to a logic that rewards political loyalty to the regime.  Second, by continuing to demand all international actors work only with government-approved local partners, the central government has found a way to effectively reconcile international donors’ call for “localization” while preserving de facto power and control.

The government has also been pushing to redevelop informal settlements, including Basateen al-Razi in the Damascus area, where a multi-million urban redevelopment project aims to build a large residential area intended to house over 60,000 residents and replace the previous settlement.  But the modern character of the project – including high-rise buildings – is not without potential problems; indeed its implementation inevitably includes the demolition and dramatic reconfiguration of the previous urban landscape.  The redevelopment can in turn have a dire impact on its previous residents, especially as many of them have been displaced by the conflict.  Clearing these areas for redevelopment raises fears in the displaced population that their displacement and dispossession could be made permanent, by both physically destroying their homes and de facto reallocating their property rights.

Basateen al-Razi is not exceptional.  It is one of many informal settlements, which simultaneously constitute some of the poorest and more severely war-damaged areas in cities like Homs, Damascus or Aleppo, among others, intended to be rebuilt and redeveloped.  What is more, in instances like  Basateen al-Razi in the Damascus area or the Jouret al-Shayah neighborhood in Homs, the areas at the center of  redevelopment projects are also former opposition strongholds, adding to the fears that dramatically reconfiguring these areas could serve as a power consolidation and population control tool, with significant impact on the civilian population, and especially on the 6.3 million IDPs nationwide.  In these cases, reconstruction risks heightening, rather than lessening, societal conflict, while increasing the vulnerability of segments of the population that are already at risk.  In other words, reconstruction policies have a concrete political impact, as well as the potential to create or consolidate forms of marginalization within Syria.  As such, they are also a significant protection issue.

Another way for the Syrian government to maximize the political returns on the reconstruction process is to ensure that the external actors that end up helping foot the reconstruction bill or playing a prominent role in the reconstruction business will continue to afford the Syrian government freedom to maneuver, allowing it to consolidate its own advantage in the conflict.  This is why the Syrian government has repeatedly stated that China, India, Iran and Russia are welcome to play a role in rebuilding Syria, as they are perceived as less likely to condition aid on political reforms, as the European Union has suggested.  The more the Syrian government is able to rely on these key allies, particularly Iran and Russia, the more it will be able to move forward with a reconstruction process that is divorced from issues pertaining to political transition and reform.

The relation between reconstruction, governance and power is not lost on any of the external actors in Syria.  Even as they negotiate de-escalation and ceasefire arrangements, external powers will likely also seek to cement spheres of influence in Syria through reconstruction.  For example, Turkey is investing in rebuilding war-damaged infrastructure in al-Bab, outside of Aleppo, and has even announced it plans to build an entirely new suburb nearby.  While Turkey hopes this will drive out extremist groups and encourage many of the refugees it is hosting across the border in Gaziantep to return to Syria, these efforts are as much about present-day stabilization as about establishing future political influence.

In turn, as reconstruction moves forward, former Assad opponents like the United States and the EU will face a dilemma between investing in “technical” reconstruction, relinquishing any semblance of putting conditions on aid and de facto rewarding the regime and its consolidation of power on the ground, or refusing to participate in the reconstruction process all together, risking losing even more influence.

The international development sector as a whole faces the same predicament when thinking about how to operate in the complex Syrian context.  Indeed, while the need for reconstruction and recovery is undeniable, the ongoing violence and militarization mean the Syrian government can continue to use reconstruction to consolidate control and solidify wartime alliances.  Yet if the physical rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure continues to occur separately from talks to reach a political settlement and to repair Syria’s devastated social fabric, it will negatively impact already vulnerable sectors within Syrian society and further delay any discussion on how to move beyond war and conflict.

Benedetta Berti is a Robert A. Fox Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) and a TED Senior Fellow.  (Sada 05.09)

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11.4  GCC: Diplomatic Row is Credit Negative for All GCC Members; Qatar & Bahrain Most Exposed

The diplomatic dispute between Qatar and a group of neighboring countries, including members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is credit negative for all GCC countries, with Qatar and Bahrain being most exposed, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report on 13 September.

The report said a drawn-out standoff would be credit negative for all GCC members, but Qatar, Bahrain most at risk.  “The severity of the diplomatic dispute between Gulf countries is unprecedented, which magnifies the uncertainty over the ultimate economic, fiscal and social impact on the GCC as a whole,” said Steffen Dyck, Moody’s Vice President — Senior Credit Officer and co-author of the report.  “While we expect the GCC to overcome its divisions, tensions persisting — or even escalating — would be the most credit negative for Qatar and Bahrain.”

More than three months since the diplomatic row began; Qatar faces large economic, financial and social costs stemming from related travel and trade restrictions.  Qatar’s future credit trajectory will depend heavily on the evolution of the dispute.

The impact to-date has been most acute for the trade, tourism and banking sectors.  Sizable capital outflows near $30 billion flowed out of Qatar’s banking system in June and July, with further declines expected as GCC banks opt not to roll over their deposits.  Qatar Central Bank has been supporting bank funding: Moody’s estimates Qatar used $38.5 billion (equivalent to 23% of GDP) to support the economy in the two first months of the sanctions.

Although negative foreign investor sentiment has also increased Qatar’s financing costs and led to capital outflows, Moody’s does not expect Qatar to raise funds in the international capital markets this year.  This should cushion Qatar against higher funding costs for the time being.

Among Qatar’s GCC critics, Bahrain is most exposed to an escalation of regional tension.  Rising debt, increased issuance from other GCC sovereigns, and rising US interest rates have put pressure on Bahrain’s financing costs since 2014.

The broad-based deterioration of Bahrain’s credit profile and its diminished shock absorption capacity makes it susceptible to any reassessment of risk by foreign investors.  The country’s strong alliance with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have provided support in the past, mitigates this risk to some extent.  However, the form and timeliness of such support lacks clarity.

The direct exposure of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s banking systems to a coordinated withdrawal of cross-border deposits and loans by Qatari banks and other institutions is modest.  The tensions highlight intra-GCC divisions, and although Moody’s believes that a realignment within the GCC is unlikely, the diplomatic rift will inevitably impair the functioning of the grouping, the more so the longer it persists.  (Moody’s 13.09)

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11.5  EGYPT:  Egypt Clears Multibillion-Dollar FX Backlog

Egypt has cleared a multibillion-dollar backlog of foreign-currency requests from importers and foreign companies since floating the pound in November, a central bank official said, the latest sign that the economy is recovering from a paralyzing dollar shortage.

The banking system is also meeting new foreign-currency requests without delay, the official said on condition of anonymity.  The bank shared previously unpublished data with Bloomberg, showing that $1.5 billion in pending requests from multinationals to transfer to mother companies or pay suppliers have been cleared.  Some $552 million has been made available to foreign companies seeking to remit dividends.  In total, $49 billion of trade-financing transactions were executed between the flotation of the pound and August, the official said.

The figures add to growing evidence that Egypt’s external finances have improved since it abandoned most currency controls in November as part of a sweeping economic program that helped clinch a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.  Central bank reserves have almost doubled to $36 billion in July. International investors have poured billions into Egyptian local-currency debt.

Foreign companies and importers had struggled to obtain dollars since the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, which drove away foreign investors and tourists.

The currency crunch became so acute that companies were finding it difficult secure letters of credit, leaving some $800 million of shipments stuck in the country’s ports.  Those have now also been cleared.  An outstanding $2.1 billion in requests made by importers and other businesses seeking to settle temporary overdrafts taken out before the flotation have also been cleared.

“The figures confirm the economy is recovering and is increasingly able to generate more of its FX needs,” said Reham El Desoki, senior economist at regional investment bank Arqaam Capital.  Increased transparency from the central bank, in line with its commitments to the IMF, was welcome and would help to reassure investors, she said.

More Transactions

The central bank official said the increased availability of foreign currency in the banking system had boosted trading on the interbank system, which got off to a slow start due after the flotation due a severe lack of liquidity, as some banks were now selling their surplus dollars through it.

Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer told Bloomberg that the interbank system was “active and working well,” adding that about $9 billion had been traded since the currency was floated.

The pound has lost half its value since the float and now trades at about 17.6 per dollar.  The weaker currency, along with subsidy cuts, the introduction of value-added taxation and a sharp increase in import duties on hundreds of goods, have propelled inflation to more than 30% – the highest level in more than a decade.

However, the pound has stabilized and begun to slowly strengthen in recent months as dollar availability improves.  “This comes at a time when the interbank market is reportedly seeing continued inflows, unlike earlier periods of Egyptian pound appreciation, an indication the market is comfortable about holding the Egyptian pound,” said Mohamed Abu Basha, an economist at Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes.  (Bloomberg 05.09)

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11.6  TURKEY:  Turkey Aims to Select Tank-Maker in 2018

Turkey’s military and procurement authorities have fine-tuned their multibillion-dollar competition for the production of an indigenous battle tank with a view to selecting a winner in mid-2018.  The initial phase of the Altay tank program involves the serial production of a batch of 250 units.  Military officials say the program would eventually reach 1,000 units.  Industry sources say the final figure could reach billions of dollars.  The procurement official said that the Ankara government expects the three bidders to submit their bids by November.

In July, Turkey’s procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, or SSM, sent requests for proposal to three local armored vehicle manufacturers.  This decision effectively meant the three companies are invited to bid on the program.  The companies that received the RFP from the procurement office are BMC, Otokar and FNSS, all privately owned companies.

In June, SSM had decided to scrap sole-source negotiations with Otokar for the Altay program.  Otokar is the developer and builder of prototypes of the Altay, Turkey’s first indigenous, new-generation main battle tank.  Earlier this year, Otokar’s Altay prototypes successfully completed qualification tests including mobility and endurance testing on rough terrain and climatic conditions, firing tests with various scenarios, and survivability testing.

In 2008, Otokar, Turkey’s largest privately owned defense company, had signed a $500 million contract with SSM for the development and production of four prototypes of the Altay.

But in June, the government agency, citing an unsatisfactory offer from Otokar for the serial production of the tank, canceled the contract and decided to go for competition.

Turkey’s decision to open competition for the Altay comes at a time when some industry sources caution that the program faces several technical challenges, including an engine and transmission system for the tank.

The procurement official confirmed that the Turkish industry is negotiating with MTU, a German engine maker, and Renk, a producer of transmission systems.  “In addition,” he said, “there are parallel talks with potential engine and transmission producers from other countries.”  He did not name which countries, or which companies were in talks with the Turkish industry.

Turkey’s bilateral relations with Germany have been badly stained this year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany and Europe of being Nazis and racists.  In August, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Turkey would never be a member of the European Union as long as the country is governed by Erdogan, further inflaming relations between Ankara and Berlin.  His remarks came after Erdogan urged German Turks to boycott Germany’s main parties in a general election this month.

Accession talks between Turkey and the EU have ground to a virtual halt, though Turkey remains a candidate for membership.  EU leaders have been increasingly critical of Erdogan’s crackdown on opponents and fear that sweeping new powers Erdogan won in a referendum in April are pushing Turkey away from democratic values.  “German role in the Altay program remains critical, though not indispensable, but increasingly a question mark,” one Turkish diplomat said. “And [the program] remains open to non-German industrial cooperation.”  (DN 07.08)

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11.7  TURKEY:  Turkey – the New Address for Brazilian Butt Lifts, Thick Hair and Shiny Teeth

Zilfikar Dogan posted on 5 September 2017 in Al-Monitor that at a time when many economic sectors in Turkey are struggling, the health tourism sector has boomed, attracting hundreds of thousands of foreigners eager to get medical treatment and plastic surgeries for cheap.

The Turkish surgeons’ mastery in giving women “Brazilian butt lifts” has become a new source of hard currency for the Turkish economy.  The Realself website offers the list and contacts of Turkey’s 20 most famous plastic surgeons in this realm.  More and more TV stars seem to go under the knife to get the “Brazilian butt lift.”  Keen to rectify bodily flaws and feel better, women and men alike are looking for surgical solutions, boosting the health tourism market by the day.

In recent years, Turkey has progressed remarkably in the sector.  From hip and breast augmentation, vaginal and penile surgeries, hair transplantation and dental implants to cancer treatment, organ transplantation and gender reassignment surgeries, Turkey is a rising star in the health tourism field.  Turkish medical centers offer standards on par with, and sometimes even higher than, their counterparts in Europe and the United States, but they usually bill patients half and in some cases, a third of what the procedures cost in Western countries.  Hence, the growing foreign demand for surgeries in Turkey.

A number of British celebrities from popular TV series and reality shows have made the tabloid headlines after traveling to Turkey for various plastic procedures — from Brazilian butt lifts and lip enhancements to breast and vaginal surgeries.  Abi Clarke, Chloe Khan, Chanelle McCleary, Lateysha Grace and Jemma Lucy are some of the popular names that have gone under the knife in Turkey in the past several months alone, paying sums of no more than TL 45,000 (roughly $13,100).

Though the celebrity makeovers excite interest mostly in the tabloid press, they still contribute to promotion and publicity.

Founded in 2005, the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC) has grown fast to include 317 members — hospitals, clinics, thermal and medical spa centers, and assistant facilities — as well as 144 network offices in 85 countries, which, it says, makes it the largest health-care association in Turkey and the world.  In 2013 at Monte Carlo, the THTC initiated also the creation of the Global Healthcare Travel Council and “cemented its place as a global contender in the healthcare industry,” the THTC website reads.

According to the THTC, 54 private Turkish hospitals — employing some 150,000 health-care professionals, including more than 15,000 physicians — have been accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), representing a fifth of all JCI-accredited hospitals in the world.

In remarks published on 27 August, the THTC’s founding president, Emin Cakmak, said THTC members were expected to treat 750,000 medical tourists by the end of the year.  While tourists holidaying in Turkey spend an average of $600 to $800, medical tourists spend an average of $10,000, with some patients paying up to $650,000 for procedures such as liver transplantation, he said.

Cakmak noted that while Europe’s population is aging, many governments have slashed by half the money they allocate for elderly care, which is pushing senior citizens to look for alternative health-care destinations.  Turkish health-care entrepreneurs have now turned to investments targeting the elderly segment of Europe’s population, which has reached about 125 million, he said.  Pointing to the field of oncology, he added, “Today we have 15 large hospitals above world standards working in the oncology field alone.  Thanks to those investments, Turkey is becoming one of the [international] centers of cancer treatment.”

According to figures cited by the THTC president, 746,000 medical tourists traveled to Turkey in 2016, providing revenues of $5.8 billion for the sector.  The bulk of the sum — 90% — came from medical treatments and the rest from plastic surgery procedures.  In the first half of 2017, the number of medical tourists stood at 359,683, a 7.6% decrease from the same period last year, but revenues were 21.4% up at $3.4 billion.  The figure was expected to reach at least $7.5 billion by the end of the year.

While the number of tourists holidaying in Turkey fell sharply last year, those who came for hair transplants, for instance, increased by 4.7%.  In 2016, foreigners who traveled to Turkey for hair implants and plastic surgeries alone numbered about 377,000 and paid some $715 million for the procedures.

Dentistry is another area that stands out in the health tourism drive.  Bekir Okan, the head of Okan Holding and the board of trustees of Istanbul’s Okan University, said that Turkey is on par with the United States and Europe in this field, and even ahead in some dental procedures.  Stressing that the university has invested more than $150 million in its dentistry faculty and affiliated clinics and research hospitals, he told Al-Monitor, “Our technological infrastructure is well above Western standards.  We are using the newest technology.  People from various countries are coming for treatment to our hospital in Mecidiyekoy [in Istanbul] — not only from the Middle East and Europe, but even from the United States.  That is because treatment prices are cheaper than in the West, while the treatments are above Western standards.  We intend to offer also accommodation for patients coming for dental implants. …  It is a system in which hotels will profit as well.”

A 2016 Health Ministry report, titled “Turkey’s Health Tourism Vision,” describes Turkey as a regional and international heavyweight in health tourism, noting that the World Health Organization commends the development of the sector.

According to Murat Isik, the head of Turkey’s Export Development Center, the country has become the third top destination in health tourism after the United States and Germany.  He puts the target at $20 billion in revenues for 2023.  The head of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Gursel Baran, is even more ambitious, arguing that Turkey has the potential to generate as much as $50 billion per year from health tourism.

Turkey’s health system may be earning billions of dollars from foreign celebrities and the well-to-do, but it often struggles to meet the needs of its own.  In one recent incident, a pregnant woman perished along with her unborn baby in the mainly Kurdish town of Cizre in late August because the local state hospital lacked a gynecologist to take care of her ailment and was short on ambulances to send her to a bigger hospital.

No doubt, the headway in health tourism comes as a refreshing development at a time when gloom hovers over many sectors of the Turkish economy.  Yet the country’s deteriorating image — tensions at home and abroad and escalating spats with Europe, especially Germany — are threatening to hit this emerging sector as well.  Although Russians, Middle Easterners and Central Asians dominate Turkey’s medical tourist portfolio at present, the country seems on track to become a preferred destination for Europeans and Americans, thanks to lower prices and quality services.  Yet if Turkey maintains its current political path, it may find itself increasingly isolated internationally, which will bear negatively on the preferences of medical tourists as well.

Zilfikar Dogan began his career in journalism in 1976 at the Yanki news magazine in Ankara. He has worked as a reporter, news editor, representative and columnist at Milliyet, Posta, Aksam, Finansal Forum, Star and Karsi newspapers, and as a TV programmer and commentator on the economy and politics for TRT-1, Star, NTV and CNBC-e.  He is currently editor in chief and columnist at the Korhaber news site.  (Al-Monitor 05.09)

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