Fortnightly, March 11th 2015

Fortnightly, March 11th 2015

March 11, 2015





1.1  Israel Advertises IMI Privatization Details
1.2  Israel’s Natural Gas Royalties Hit Record High
1.3  Israel Postal Company Fined NIS 120,000 for Late Parcel Deliveries


2.1  Apple CEO Meets President Rivlin in Jerusalem
2.2  Singapore Fund in Talks with Israeli Hi-Tech Startups
2.3  HARMAN Completes Acquisition of Redbend
2.4  Israel & Italy Set Up Joint Research Laboratories
2.5  Pontis Passes Major Milestone of 500 Million Customers Worldwide
2.6  PayPal buys Israeli Cyber Security Company CyActive
2.7  Unitronics to Build Largest Automated Car Park in North America


3.1  New $51.5 Million Fund Launched for IT Startups
3.2  ICT Association Welcomes Move to Establish Fund for Start-Ups
3.3  Number of Dubai Firms Being Used to Send Cash to Iran has “Mushroomed”
3.4  Sikorsky to Sell 400 Helicopters in Middle East Over Next Decade
3.5  UAE’s Just Falafel Closes Last of its UK Branches
3.6  Utilidata & Al-Rushaid Deliver Grid Technology & Solutions in Saudi Arabia
3.7  Turkish Airlines Profit Almost Triples, Plans $3 Billion Investment


4.1  Italy’s Largest Cogeneration Company Enters Israel’s Market
4.2  Jordan & Israel Agree $900 Million Red Sea – Dead Sea Project
4.3  Solar Impulse 2 Completes First Test Flights in Abu Dhabi


5.1  Lebanese Overall Prices Contract by 3.75% in January
5.2  Lebanon’s Occupancy Rate Stood at 50% in January 2015
5.3  Jordanian Unemployment Dropped to 11.9% in 2014

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.4  Riyadh Seeks Nuclear Cooperation with South Korea
5.5  Saudi Arabia Ranks Third in the World in Military Spending
5.6  Saudi King’s Spending Lifts Non-Oil Business Growth

♦♦North Africa

5.7  Egyptian Inflation Increases to 10.7% in February
5.8  Egypt Receives $23 Billion from Arabian Gulf Since Morsi Ouster
5.9  Sharm El-Sheikh International Economic Conference
5.10  Morocco & US ASTA Sign Partnership Agreement on Tourism
5.11  Morocco Earned $120 Million from Foreign Films in 2014
5.12 McKinsey Says Morocco Most Indebted Arab and African Country


6.1  Turkey’s Unemployment Rate Hit 9.9% in 2014
6.2  Greek Government Vows ‘No Pity’ in War on Tax Cheats



7.1  Waze CTO to Light Independence Day Torch


7.2  Egypt Plans New Pyramid Skyscraper


8.1  Israeli Device Could Help Solve Third World Cervical-Cancer Woes
8.2  Teva Sells its Sellersville, Pennsylvania Facility
8.3  New Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer Takes Digital Dentistry to a Next Level
8.4  BioLineRx Raises $25 Million on Nasdaq


9.1  Mellanox ConnectX-4 100Gb/s Adapter Delivers Record Results
9.2  Simgo Reveals the World’s First Virtual SIM Enabler for iPhone6
9.3  Siano Launches Smallest Integrated DVB-T2 Receiver Chip
9.4  Mellanox Boosts DPDK Performance for NFV and Cloud
9.5  Tehuti’s Industry First NBASE-T Adapter Reference Design for Enterprise Networks


10.1  Israel’s Economy Grew by 2.8% in 2014
10.2  Exports of Israeli Goods Increases by 22.9%
10.3  Israeli Car Sales Dip in February but Still Strong
10.4  Israeli Teachers’ Salaries Rise 54% in Past Decade


11.1  JORDAN: Jordan Moves To Address Energy Crunch
11.2  EGYPT: Economy Beginning to Recover After Four Years of Slow Activity
11.3  TURKEY: From ‘Zero Problems’ To Zero Trade


1.1 Israel Advertises IMI Privatization Details

The sale of Israel Military Industries to a private investor is slated for completion by late 2015 or early 2016. The Government Companies Authority published notices of the beginning of the process for selling Israel Military Industries (IMI) to a private investor. In the notices in the Israeli and foreign press, the state directs investors interested in taking part in the IMI privatization process to contact the Government Companies Authority to obtain the relevant information. The Authority and the Ministry of Defense official in charge of security will later conduct separate inquiries about the financial soundness of potential bidders in order to safeguard the state’s security interests in the company. The Government Companies Authority plans to complete the proceedings for selling the company to a private investor by late 2015 or early 2016. The company is designated for sale as a single unit, except for its ultrasensitive activities, which will continue in the framework of a new government defense company to be established. (IMI 05.03)

Back to Table of Contents

1.2 Israel’s Natural Gas Royalties Hit Record High

Israel’s state royalties from natural gas exploration, drilling and harvesting reached a record high of NIS 718 million ($180 million) in 2014, an increase of 39% from 2013, the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry said. The ministry collected royalties of NIS 425 million ($106 million) from the companies operating the Tamar offshore gas field in H2/14 alone, making for a half-year record revenue. Overall, the ministry’s Natural Resources Administration collected royalties and other fees related to natural resources in the amount of NIS 744 million ($186.5 million), matching projections from the ministry’s Royalties Department. The bulk of the royalties collected by the ministry in 2014 derived from fees related to natural gas, while some NIS 9 million ($2.25 million) came from fees related to oil explorations. Minerals and phosphate mining-related fees amounted to NIS 11 million ($2.75 million), and various other royalties yielded NIS 6 million ($1.5 million) in revenue. The ministry said natural resources’ royalties in 2015 are projected to reach NIS 820 million ($205 million).

Back to Table of Contents

1.3 Israel Postal Company Fined NIS 120,000 for Late Parcel Deliveries

The Ministry of Communications has fined Israel Postal Company NIS 120,000 for late delivery of parcels. In a letter to the Postal Company, the Ministry wrote that the reason for the fines was an audit it conducted at the company’s central processing office in Tel Aviv and at the Rehovot branch, which discovered excessive quantities of piled up parcels that had not been delivered to their destinations. This the first time that the Ministry of Communications has fined the Postal Company, a significant change in its policy. Delays in postal deliveries and questionable service by the company have been a key issue accompanying the reform to be implemented at the company, which is designed to solve these problems.

Postal Company is a government company, so that the money is remaining in the state treasury in any case. In the near future, however, an investor is due to enter the company, in which case financial sanctions for license violations are something that the company will have to cope with. (Globes 08.03)

Back to Table of Contents


2.1 Apple CEO Meets President Rivlin in Jerusalem

Apple CEO Tim Cook arrived in Israel on 25 February to open the company’s new Israel headquarters and R&D center in Herzliya. He met with President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem. Cook said, “We have great admiration for Israel not only as a US ally but in the business arena.” Later Cook dined with former President Shimon Peres at a hotel in Herzliya. Peres welcomed Apple’s decision to open an Israeli development center and Cook responded that Israel’s technological mindset was of major value to Apple. (Globes 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

2.2 Singapore Fund in Talks with Israeli Hi-Tech Startups

A $200 million Singaporean government-backed fund is planning its first-ever direct investments in Israeli tech startup companies, hoping to build on increasing interest in Asian markets among Israeli companies. A shift in focus towards Asia among Israeli companies is picking up pace amid a combination of Asia’s growth prospects and domestic concerns that policies such as Israel’s construction of settlements could ultimately attract trade sanctions. At the same time, tech-hungry Asian countries, particularly China, are boosting their investments in Israel, a hub for innovative fast-growing companies. The average size investment would be between $1 million and $5 million, though not all companies the fund helps break into Asia require funding. (Reuters 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

2.3 HARMAN Completes Acquisition of Redbend

Stamford, Connecticut’s HARMAN International Industries, the premier audio, visual, infotainment and enterprise automation group, announced the successful completion of its acquisition of Redbend. Israeli-based Redbend is a leading provider of software management technology for connected devices, and over-the-air (OTA) software and firmware upgrading services. Redbend has more than 15 years of technology development experience, delivering the most advanced software management and OTA solutions to top handset manufacturers and mobile carriers. Building upon Redbend’s established strength in the mobile and carrier markets, HARMAN will accelerate growth in the automotive space, positioning Redbend software as the de facto standard for OTA software service updates for mobile devices and automotive applications. Sophisticated software platforms such as Redbend are the cornerstone of a steadily increasing number of integrated and interoperating devices, and are ideally suited to meet the rising demands of the connected car, in managing updates for firmware, middleware, third party apps, and other services. Redbend solutions also serve as critical prerequisites for autonomous driving. Redbend will operate within HARMAN as an independent business unit led by its existing management team. (HARMAN 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

2.4 Israel & Italy Set Up Joint Research Laboratories

A number of joint laboratories for Israeli and Italian research institutes have been founded, or are being founded, now in Israel. The laboratories are receiving funding from both countries. They are jointly owned, and Israeli and Italian researchers are working in them together under the aegis of both countries. A neurology and brain laboratory was established in Tel Aviv, a solar laboratory in Sde Boker, a health sciences laboratory at Ben Gurion University, and a physics and magnetism laboratory at the Weizmann Institute. A joint outer space laboratory has also been founded. In addition to €500,000 from each country, the Tel Aviv laboratory has already raised more money from the European Union – evidence that the concept has succeeded. The laboratories are one of the projects included in the Israel-Italy research and technology cooperation agreement. Israel and Italy are each allocating €3 million to the project, and the Israel Council for Higher Education Planning and Budgeting Committee is giving an additional €3 million, making the total annual budget €9 million. (Globes 03.03)

Back to Table of Contents

2.5 Pontis Passes Major Milestone of 500 Million Customers Worldwide

Pontis announced reaching half a billion customers worldwide. Working with Tier 1 service providers, Pontis is revolutionizing customer engagement for the telecom industry through holistic and proactive customer experiences across all channels. The focus on enhancing customer engagement has led Pontis’ customers to see a 3% increase of ARPU, 15% increase of revenue from mobile data services, 25% increases in NPS score and 15% reduction in annual churn. Pontis enables major global service providers to significantly improve customer engagement by igniting the importance of the customer centric approach. The continuous contextual engagement approach that drives the Pontis solutions, empowers service providers to build ongoing two-way dialogues and to proactively tend to each and every customer’s personal needs and behaviors throughout their entire life-cycle. By facilitating real time digital engagement, the Pontis solutions are used to support the various business needs of service providers including individual customer lifecycle management, revenue increase, customer retention, proactive customer experience, mobile data and digital service monetization and converged quad-play value creation.

Ra’anana’s Pontis is the pioneer of continuous contextual engagement solutions for telecom service providers. Selected by dozens of Tier-1 operators around the globe, the Pontis solution transforms the way customer engagement is executed by implementing a customer-centric strategy that drives proactive and personalized engagement with each customer based on their behaviors and context. The engagement occurs across channels and touch-points, enabling a truly digital experience by the service provider. (Pontis 03.03)

Back to Table of Contents

2.6 PayPal buys Israeli Cyber Security Company CyActive

PayPal is making another acquisition in Israel, purchasing CyActive for $60 million. The deal has been signed and is expected to close shortly. CyActive has raised $2 million from German giant Siemens, Israeli venture capital firm JVP, and an additional foreign investor. CyActive is part of JVP’s cyber incubator in Beer Sheva, set up eighteen months ago as part of the Beer Sheva Advanced Technologies Park. This is the first exit for the young incubator. This is PayPal’s second acquisition in Israel, after it bought FraudSciences, whose field is monitoring financial fraud, in 2008 for $169 million.

Beer Sheba’s CyActive is a predictive cyber security company, which places its clients ahead of potential cyber threats by predicting and preventing future attacks. CyActive has developed an unprecedented ability to automatically forecast the future of malware evolution, based on bio-inspired algorithms and a deep understanding of the black hats’ hacking process. CyActive is the first to offer proactive detection of future malware before it has ever seen the light of day. The resulting solution delivers unparalleled protection to IT and OT assets. (CyActive 10.03)

Back to Table of Contents

2.7 Unitronics to Build Largest Automated Car Park in North America

Unitronics announced that its fully-owned subsidiary, Unitronics Systems Inc., has signed a Binding Letter of Intent with Prestige Properties Corp for the design, supply and installation of an Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval System in Calgary, Canada. Unitronics will be paid a total of $24m for the successful delivery of the project. Under the agreement, the AVSRS will provide approximately 1,400 parking spaces for one of the world’s premier hotel chains. The formal contract is expected to be signed once Prestige receives a development permit from the relevant authorities and proceeds with the project. This is expected to occur in 2015. Unitronics believes the benefits of its parking solutions include: savings in valuable real estate; environmentally friendly, low electricity consumption, reduced fuel emissions, and reduced noise and risk of groundwater contamination; reduced maintenance costs; and improved accessibility for people with disabilities. In addition, Unitronics’ automated car park is designed to offer high personal and asset security.

Established in 1989, Ben Gurion Airport’s Unitronics specializes in the development of automated parking solutions, smart storage and logistics systems and PLCs for industrial automation. Unitronics’ solutions are designed to create enhanced people-machine interactions by means of a user-friendly visual interface and to enable remote management over the internet, the organizational network, and GSM cellular networks for commercial-mobile apps. (Unitronics 09.03)

Back to Table of Contents


3.1 New $51.5 Million Fund Launched for IT Startups

On 25 February, Berytech launched its second fund for $51.5 million to support startups in growing their businesses and creating new job opportunities, with financing from over 18 major banks in Lebanon. The fund complies with Circular 331 issued by the Central Bank of Lebanon and which allows Lebanese banks and financial institutions to invest in startups in the field of knowledge economy. The Central Bank Circular 331, announced 18 months ago, aims to give a boost to local startups by making funding more easily available. The $400 million in this new initiative is 75% guaranteed by the BDL for local banks, equity investment accelerators, incubators, funds and startups.

The first fund created by Berytech in 2008, with $6 million of financing, proved to be successful and this encouraged Berytech to launch its second fund. The first fund was able to finance 15 companies and they were able to support over 2,500 entrepreneurs. Among the major banks contributing in the fund are BankMed, BLOM Group, Bank Audi, Byblos Bank, Fransabank and many others.

Berytech Fund II invests from $500,000 to $3 million in each startup in industries including information communication technology, digital content, industrial design, fashion and design, and renewable energy. (Berytech 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

3.2 ICT Association Welcomes Move to Establish Fund for Start-Ups

The ICT Association of Jordan (int@j) said the creation of a fund to help start-ups with no credit history obtain financing is crucial to boost entrepreneurship, but stressed that follow- up on funded projects is required to ensure success. int@j Chairman Abbassi said the recent announcement by the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) to create a fund to help start-ups, especially small-sized ones, is a step in the right direction. According to CBJ Governor Fariz, the fund, which will be created in collaboration with the government, seeks to make it easy for start-ups and entrepreneurs to obtain funding for their projects and overcome the obstacle of having no collateral. The CBJ governor said the fund will provide technical assistance to start-ups on how to write proposals for financing and provide them with skills on managing such projects. Abbassi noted that start-ups lack “soft skills” and educating them on how to approach funding entities is crucial. However, he stressed that extending credit to start-ups should be studied thoroughly to avoid fraud.

According to official figures, small- and medium-sized projects represent 90% of companies in Jordan and contribute 40% to the country’s GDP. About 70% of jobs created in Jordan are by these enterprises. (JT 28.02)

Back to Table of Contents

3.3 Number of Dubai Firms Being Used to Send Cash to Iran has “Mushroomed”

At least $1 billion in cash has been smuggled into Iran as it seeks to avoid Western sanctions, a bigger figure than previously reported, Iranian officials and Western intelligence and diplomatic sources say. Sanctions imposed by the West over Iran’s nuclear program have shut Tehran out of the global banking system, making it hard to obtain the US dollars it needs for international transactions. In December, the US Treasury said the Iranian government had obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in bank notes using front companies.

Interviews by Reuters with Iranian officials and Western diplomatic and intelligence sources show a bigger smuggling effort by Tehran, as well as the routes and methods used – details not previously reported. Tehran has been working on ways to obtain dollars since March last year. The sources said the cash was hand-carried by couriers on flights from Dubai or Turkey, or brought across the Iraq-Iran border. Before it reached Iran, the cash was passed through money changers and front companies in Dubai, in the UAE and Iraq.

Western and Iranian sources said Iran’s central bank had in recent months worked with other entities, including other sanctioned Iranian companies, to find ways to obtain US dollars, including using front companies and their networks. They said the central bank had given the orders to the front companies abroad to buy dollars. An Iranian government official with knowledge of how the dollars were obtained said front companies had “mushroomed” in Dubai to facilitate payments to Iran. US Executive Order 13622, which came into effect in 2012, prohibits the purchase or acquisition of US bank notes by the government of Iran. (AB 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

3.4 Sikorsky to Sell 400 Helicopters in Middle East Over Next Decade

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, a unit of United Technologies Corp, expects to sell around 400 helicopters in the Middle East over the next five to ten years, roughly as many as it has delivered to the region to date. Most countries in the Middle East, especially the Arabian Gulf states, are working hard to modernize their transport systems and economies, which will boost demand for helicopters. Sikorsky, which makes both commercial and military aircraft, has a joint venture with a unit of Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala and Lockheed Martin in Abu Dhabi for aircraft maintenance. Sikorsky plans to open a regional office in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, and is opening a new business unit in Saudi Arabia to support military and commercial aircraft. (AB 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

3.5 UAE’s Just Falafel Closes Last of its UK Branches

Just Falafel, the UAE-based street food retailer, has closed all of its branches in the UK. The home-grown fast-casual restaurant brand, which rebranded last month as JF Street Food, opened its first store outside the Middle East in London’s Covent Garden just over a year ago, with plans at that stage to open a further 200 outlets in the UK as part of a five-year expansion plan. Billed as a healthy rival to fast-food giant McDonalds, Just Falafel never quite took hold in the UK and according to a report in The Times, Just Falafel has closed down the last of its six British restaurants. The company has 42 restaurants, mostly in the Middle East, and has plans to open more outlets in the near future in the US.

In the US, where it already has restaurants in New Jersey and California, there are plans to open further outlets in Louisville, San Jose, Garden City New York and two in New Jersey. Just Falafel also has international locations in Ontario, Canada, as well as Sydney and Paramatta in Australia. In May last year, the company announced a deal to open 57 European stores, which are to be operated by Wadi Degla Holding, an Egyptian conglomerate that already has 27 Just Falafel stores in Egypt. (AB 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

3.6 Utilidata & Al-Rushaid Deliver Grid Technology & Solutions in Saudi Arabia

Providence, R.I.’s Utilidata, a global software company working to modernize and secure the electric grid, announced a partnership in the Middle East with Al-Rushaid Technologies. The partnership will allow Utilidata to scale its intelligent control technology across the electric grid in Saudi Arabia, as well as work on core cyber-security issues that are pressing within the Kingdom. Utilidata’s patented digital platform captures real-time data from the electric grid and gives utilities and industrial companies the information and system control needed to save energy, improve reliability, and better detect anomalies. Al-Rushaid Technologies is a Saudi firm that partners with innovative technology solution providers that benefit the Kingdom and the region. With major clients in the Energy, Utilities, as well the Government space, the company focuses on Enterprise Solutions and Information Technology, Technology Ventures, Energy Management and Conservation, Satellite and Communications, Advanced Energy Solutions, and Cyber Security Solutions. (Utilidata 03.03)

Back to Table of Contents

3.7 Turkish Airlines Profit Almost Triples, Plans $3 Billion Investment

Turkish Airlines posted a 2014 net profit that almost tripled and unveiled plans to invest more than $3 billion mostly on its fleet, partly financed by a bond issue in the coming months. Net profit rose to TL 1.82 billion ($739 million) from TL 683 million. Sales rose 29% to 24.1 billion. The airline said it and its subsidiaries planned around $3.74 billion in new investment this year, most of it on increasing its 261 fleet of aircraft. The company is in the final stages of a planned bond issue to diversify its sources of aircraft financing and that the issue was expected to be completed in H1/15. The bond would be at least $500 million and could reach a volume of $2-3 billion with a maturity of up to 14 years. The carrier needs larger Boeing 747-8 and Airbus A380 aircraft in the future but no management decision had yet been taken. The airline is considering expanding its fleet and was studying a list of Boeing and Airbus models including the double-decker A380. (AB 25.05)

Back to Table of Contents


4.1 Italy’s Largest Cogeneration Company Enters Israel’s Market

Italian company AB Cogeneration Energy, Europe’s largest manufacturer of cogeneration power stations up to 5 MW, is entering the Israeli market, and hopes to lead the market for power plants at factories. Cogeneration is a technology that combines two processes, electricity production and heat generation, for the purpose of attaining more efficient utilization of liquid or gas fuel, thereby achieving greater energy efficiency and saving money. These power plants are being built mainly on factory premises. Instead of buying electricity from Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), the enterprise can buy the electricity produced at the power plant, thereby saving the amount charged by IEC for conducting the electricity on its grid. Although most enterprises complain that they cannot buy gas, the Italian company believes that the “gas revolution” will come, and that it will build 150 – 250 cogeneration power stations on factory premises in the next five years. (Globes 04.03)

Back to Table of Contents

4.2 Jordan & Israel Agree $900 Million Red Sea – Dead Sea Project

Jordan and Israel signed an agreement to go ahead with a World Bank-sponsored project to build a desalination plant in the Gulf of Aqaba and a pipeline linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea. The plant will be built in the southern Jordanian port of Aqaba on the Red Sea and will desalinate water to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians. The brine that is a byproduct of the process will be sent north in a 180 km. pipeline to the Dead Sea. The project will cost around $900 million and will take nearly three years to complete. Jordanian officials said the two projects were crucial to providing a source of fresh water to the kingdom, which faces a severe water deficit, and to reviving the shrinking Dead Sea. The desalination plant will produce at least 80 million cubic meters annually. Israel will buy at cost up to 40 million cubic meters. The rest will go to Aqaba.

The project began to move ahead two years ago after the World Bank determined it is possible to use the Red Sea to replenish the shrinking Dead Sea after years of studying whether such a connecting lifeline could work. (Reuters 27.02)

Back to Table of Contents

4.3 Solar Impulse 2 Completes First Test Flights in Abu Dhabi

Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered aircraft, completed its first test flights in Abu Dhabi on 27 February ahead of its round-the-world journey. With Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg taking turns in the cockpit, the single-seater aircraft will attempt the flight around the world beginning in March from the UAE capital. Si2, the first airplane able to fly day and night without a drop of fuel, successfully completed its maiden flight in Abu Dhabi. The initial results are in line with calculations and simulations, while several more test flights are scheduled for the coming week. Solar Impulse will fly day and night and will land in 12 locations across the world including Muscat in Oman. It will travel 35,000 km. in the first attempt to fly around the globe without using a drop of fuel. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman, Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India, Mandalay, Myanmar and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Si2 will fly across the US stopping in Phoenix and New York City at JFK. A third stop-over location in the Midwest will be decided dependent on weather conditions. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi. The first round-the-world solar adventure will take approximately 25 flight days, spread over five months, at speeds of between 50 and 100kmh. (AB 27.02)

Back to Table of Contents


5.1 Lebanese Overall Prices Contract by 3.75% in January

According to Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) the consumer price index (CPI) fell from 100.92 points in January 2014 to 97.13 points by the end of January 2015, recording a 3.75% annual fall, one of its lowest levels in the past 5 years. With an average inflation rate of 1.85% in the past year, overall prices in Lebanon have been rising at a slower pace, only to start declining in December 2014. In January, out of the 12 sub-indices, 5 declined while 8 witnessed yearly increases.

In terms of annual drop, communication prices, holding a weight of 4.6% in the CPI, posted the greatest decrease of 23.71% (y-o-y) by January 2015. This was due to the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunication launching, in Mid-May, a series of measures to lower internet and mobile tariffs. Furthermore, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (11.9% of the CPI) experienced a yearly drop of 18.10% while transportation (13.1% of the CPI) was tailing by an annual decrease of 14.07%. These declines are primarily due to the staggering slip of international crude oil prices. The trend of declining International oil prices has been prominent throughout 2014 to January 2015. Hence, this helped the gradual drop in the prices of 20L Octane 98 and 95, which reached 34%. The final 2 sub-indices that waned were food and non-alcoholic beverages (20.6% of the CPI) and that of health (7.8% of the CPI) by respective 1.14% and 2.07% y-o-y. (Blominvest 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

5.2 Lebanon’s Occupancy Rate Stood at 50% in January 2015

According to Ernst & Young Middle East hotel benchmark survey, Lebanon recorded the second largest year on year (y-o-y) increase in its occupancy, with a 14% rise to 50% in January 2015. The stabilized political situation in Lebanon, the New Year Holiday and the skiing season contributed to the improvement in occupancy. With respect to average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPar), they displayed yearly progresses of 3.8% and 43.5% to $181 and $92, respectively.

Improving political and security situations allowed Egypt to be the best performer among the countries in the survey, with the highest growth of 24% in its occupancy to 50%. Cairo’s ADR added 45.9% to $106, while its RevPar surged from $19 in 2014 to $53 in January 2015. On the other hand, Medina in Saudi Arabia showed the worst drop in occupancy rate of 11% to 69%. ADR gained 1.3% to $188, whereas its RevPar declined 125 to $131, respectively. (Blominvest 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

5.3 Jordanian Unemployment Dropped to 11.9% in 2014

Jordan’s unemployment rate in 2014 stood at 11.9%, going down by 0.7% compared with 2013, when it was 12.6%, Labour Minister Katamine said on 8 March. Citing a recent report issued by the Department of Statistics (DoS), Katamine added that unemployment rates in 2014 declined despite difficult regional circumstances that affected production and growth rates, as well as efforts to attract new investments. The DoS figures showed that unemployment was 20.7% among women and 10.1% among men last year, compared to 22.2% among women and 10.6% among men in 2013. The same data revealed that the rate of the economically active population in 2014 stood at 36.4% – 12.6% among women and 59.7% among men. The minister attributed the drop in unemployment in 2014 to employment projects and inspection campaigns the ministry has been carrying out. The minister stressed that 2015 will witness an expansion in employment programs such as initiatives targeting productive branches, in addition to the implementation of new projects and policies aimed at alleviating poverty and unemployment. (JT 07.03)

Back to Table of Contents

►►Arabian Gulf

5.4 Riyadh Seeks Nuclear Cooperation with South Korea

On 3 March, leaders of South Korea and Saudi Arabia agreed to investigate building more than two small and medium-sized nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia. The projects may be worth as much as $2 billion. During summit talks, President Park Geun-hye and King Salman discussed ways “to upgrade bilateral relations by strengthening cooperation in energy, creative economy, investment, medical services and information technology.” After the summit, the two leaders observed the signing of a memorandum of understanding aimed at developing South Korea’s SMART reactors and jointly entering the global market. The SMART reactor, which generates electric power and also desalinates sea water, was designed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute with Middle Eastern countries in mind. Under the agreement, the two countries are set to conduct a three-year preliminary study by 2018 to review the feasibility of constructing SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia. With the agreement, the South Korean government expects to win $2 billion worth of nuclear reactor deals in Saudi Arabia and additional orders in the future. The Saudis, who are the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil, plan to build more than twelve 8 GW nuclear power plants by 2040 to prepare for growing domestic demand for electricity and to secure new energy sources. (KH 04.03)

Back to Table of Contents

5.5 Saudi Arabia Ranks Third in the World in Military Spending

Saudi Arabia has become the world’s third leading country in terms of military spending, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal. Weapon purchases by the oil-rich monarchies of the Arab Gulf grew significantly in 2014 in light of the military threats in the region, including the threat posed by the terrorist organization the Islamic State (IS) and continuing concerns about Iran’s regional ambitions. The four biggest Arabian Gulf defense customers – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman and Qatar – spent a total $109.9 billion in 2014, up almost 44% from 2012.

Saudi Arabia spent $80 million on defense last year, up almost 43% from just two years earlier, bringing the country to third place in the world, behind the United States and China, in terms of defense spending, based on figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. For example, Saudi Arabia put in an order in 2014 for as many as eight Spydr aircrafts, a relatively small spy plane made by L-3 Communications Holding. (MWN 24.02)

Back to Table of Contents

5.6 Saudi King’s Spending Lifts Non-Oil Business Growth

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector growth has jumped to a four-month high due to the massive spending triggered by the new King Salman bin Abdulaziz, despite falling oil prices. According to the SAAB HSBC Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), the headline PMI for February has climbed to a four-month high of 58.5, up from 57.8 in January. The latest reading highlights a robust improvement in non-oil private sector operating conditions, reflected by steep expansions in output, new orders and employment. Through a series of decrees, Saudi’s new king ordered a massive $29.3 billion spending that includes payments of two months bonus salary to all Saudi government employees. King Salman also issued a series of subsidies for electricity, water and housing. He also promised $267,000 dollars to each of the oil rich Kingdom’s art clubs. These lavish handouts and an immediate payment of two months’ salary to government employees had an impact on the consumer spending in February, as there was a marked growth of output and new businesses. Firms operating in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector continued to hire additional staff in February, extending the current sequence of jobs growth to 11 months. Moreover, inflationary pressures from input costs eased and were historically muted in February. (AME 03.03)

Back to Table of Contents

►►North Africa

5.7 Egyptian Inflation Increases to 10.7% in February

Egypt’s annual inflation rose to 10.7% in February from 9.7% registered in January, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced. On 15 January, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) cut interest rates by 50 basis points, in its first meeting in 2015. The cut was attributed to a decline in the headline consumer price index (CPI) by 1.53% in November and 0.07% in December. The CBE said this was to bring annual inflation rates to 9.09% in November, and then to 10.13% in December.

The CBE also said that real GDP increased in Q1 FY 2014/15 to 6.8%, the highest annual growth rate since the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2007/08, thanks to growth in the manufacturing sector. There was also expansion in tourism activities, after several quarters of contraction. In July, inflation rates witnessed their highest surge since 2008, affected by the government’s decision to reduce spending on energy subsidies. There was also an increase in the prices of fuel and gas products in an attempt to reduce the 14% GDP budget deficit, according to CAPMAS. (CAPMAS 10.03)

Back to Table of Contents

5.8 Egypt Receives $23 Billion from Arabian Gulf Since Morsi Ouster

Egypt has received $23 billion in aid from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait in the 18 months since Islamist President Morsi was ousted, Investment Minister Salman said on 2 March. Speaking at a business conference in Dubai, Salman said the aid included oil shipments, cash grants and deposits in Egypt’s central bank. The three wealthy Gulf governments, deeply opposed to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group, ramped up aid to Egypt after his ouster and are spending heavily to try to ensure the success of current President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. (Reuters 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

5.9 Sharm El-Sheikh International Economic Conference

Sixty countries are going to participate in the Sharm El-Sheikh economic conference scheduled to be held in mid-March, including Russia and the United States, Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs announced. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Chinese President Xi Jinping said China’s minister of commerce would head China’s official delegation in the conference. US Secretary of State Kerry and Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov will also participate in the conference. There are currently talks with the 28 EU member countries revolving around their anticipated attendance to the conference. The economic conference will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, South Sinai on 14 – 15 March. (Ahram 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

5.10 Morocco & US ASTA Sign Partnership Agreement on Tourism

On 27 February, Morocco and the American Society of Travel Agents ASTA signed a partnership agreement to position the Moroccan destination on the American market and double the number of tourist arrivals on the short term. The agreement was signed by director general of Morocco’s tourism office ONMT Abderrafie Zouiten, president of the National Tourism Confederation Abdellatif Kabbaj and ASTA president Zane Kerby. The agreement aims to conduct promotional actions to boost the US market’s demand for the Moroccan product. Measures planned include strengthening partnerships with carriers to increase the number of flights operated from the US market, the availability of the ASTA marketing platform, and the organization of trips for US travel agents to targeted tourist destinations. (MWP 28.02)

Back to Table of Contents

5.11 Morocco Earned $120 Million from Foreign Films in 2014

The Moroccan Cinematographic Centre (CCM) said 2014 was a record year for film production in Morocco with a combined budget of $120 million, according to. This figure represents a six-fold increase in comparison with 2013 when the budget of foreign films production reached $22 million. Speaking at the close of Morocco’s National Film Festival in Tangiers on Saturday, the head of Morocco’s film commission said this increase was made possible to the country’s political stability compared to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Highly acclaimed by Hollywood producers, Morocco is one of the most popular filming destinations and home to many successful international films. The most recent movie filmed in Morocco is the American film “Son of God,” produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, released in February 2014. (MWN 28.02)

Back to Table of Contents

5.12 McKinsey Says Morocco Most Indebted Arab and African Country

According to a new report by McKinsey Global Institute, Morocco is the most indebted among Arab and African countries. The kingdom’s debt-to-GDP ratio stands at 136% or an increase by 20% of GDP. Morocco is ranked 29 in the McKinsey’s new report which “examines the evolution of debt across 47 countries, 22 advanced and 25 developing, and assesses the implications of higher leverages in the global economy and in specific sectors and countries.” Morocco comes ahead of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia which have actually succeeded in reducing their debts. The Moroccan government debts have jumped by 8% of GDP, while corporate and household debts have increased by 7% and 5% of GDP respectively. The report calls on Moroccan policy-makers and their counterparts in countries with high percentage of debts to consider more ways to reduce government debt and reevaluate how incentives in the tax system encourage the amassing of debt. (McKinsey 03.03)

Back to Table of Contents


6.1 Turkey’s Unemployment Rate Hit 9.9% in 2014

The unemployment rate was 9.9% in 2014, rising from 9.7% in the previous year, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK) announced on 6 March. The number of unemployed persons aged 15 years old and over was 2.8 million people in 2014. The unemployment rate was announced at 9% for males and 11.9% for females. While the youth unemployment rate between the ages of 15-24 was 17.9%, the unemployment rate for the age group of 15 – 64 was 10.1%. The total number of employed persons aged 15 and over was 25.9 million and the employment rate was 45.5%. The employment rate was 64.8% for males, and 26.7% for females. Of all people who were employed in 2014, 21.1% were in the agricultural sector, 27.9% in the industrial sector and 51% in the services sector. Istanbul provided the highest employment rate with around 19.7% in 2014, followed by the capital city of Ankara with 6.9% and the Aegean city of Izmir with 5.8%. (TUIK 06.03)

Back to Table of Contents

6.2 Greek Government Vows ‘No Pity’ in War on Tax Cheats

Greece’s finance minister recently promised “no pity” in tackling tax evasion as the new left-wing government seeks to balance its books and avoid having to seek a third bailout. This could include a one-off tax on the Greek rich. Prime Minister Tsipras’ hard-left Syriza party swept to power last month vowing to reverse years of painful austerity cuts imposed in return for two bailouts in 2010 and 2012 worth €240 billion ($270 billion). Tsipras reiterated that once the current bailout expires on 30 June there will be no “third memorandum” as the previous agreements of cuts in exchange for further financial support is known. The 40-year-old’s self-declared “government of social salvation” however faces a major challenge keeping both voters and Greece’s international creditors happy as he seeks to reverse austerity cuts while keeping government spending in check. At the same time Greece has to repay billions of euros in debts in the coming months and Tsipras has said he wants to renegotiate the country’s €320 billion debt pile despite fierce opposition, not least in Germany, to any such “haircut”. (GN 28.02)

Back to Table of Contents



7.1 Waze CTO to Light Independence Day Torch

Fourteen Israelis who have recorded groundbreaking achievements will light Independence Day torches at the ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem next month. Minister of Culture and Sport Livnat announced on 10 March the list of Israelis who will light the torches.

The list includes: Waze CTO Ehud Shabtai; Iron Dome developer Danny Gold; supermarket magnate Rami Levy; Or Assulin, a 17-year old student from Akko who is CEO of a young entrepreneurs development company; Lucy Aharish, a Muslim Israeli journalist; Alice Miller who successfully appealed to the High Court of Justice to let women try for the IDF pilot’s course; Prof. Marta Weinstok-Rosin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who developed the drug Exelon for treating Alzheimer’s, and Rafi Mehudar who invented drip irrigation. (Globes 08.03)

Back to Table of Contents


7.2 Egypt Plans New Pyramid Skyscraper

Plans for a Cairo skyscraper modelled on Egypt’s most famous historic monuments have been put forward by the country’s government. The 200-metre high-rise is designed to resemble the ancient pyramids and is proposed for the Sheikh Zayed City development. The name of the architect involved and the cost of the project have not yet been revealed, but Egypt’s minister of housing said it would be built through a partnership between real estate developers and the government’s New Urban Communities Authority. The government will formally present the project at an economic development conference later this month – an event being held to boost investment for the country’s economy. The structure will also be surrounded by water features and greenery on a 190-hectare site overlooking the July 26 road, about 30 minutes’ drive from the historic pyramids of Giza. It will be taller than the 138-metre-high Great Pyramid – the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one still in existence. (AB 04.03)

Back to Table of Contents


8.1 Israeli Device Could Help Solve Third World Cervical-Cancer Woes

Netanya’s Biop Medical has developed an innovative technology for the identification of cancerous and pre-cancer cells in epithelium tissues. Biop will enable point-of-care diagnosis of the entire cervix, generating a real-time map of the cervix. Patients will receive, with near certainty a diagnosis, at the time of the test, without the wait and anxiety associated with the current, inefficient process. By implementing Biop’s technology colposcopies will be faster, more comfortable and more accurate. The device could also be an important factor in reducing the rate of death from the disease in the developing world.

The Biop device, which is basically a cloud-connected camera, provides a solution for third world scenarios. The Biop device is inserted into the cervix and, using a high-resolution optical system, sends images to a remote server. There, the images are analyzed in depth and compared with a large library of images that show the cancer in its various stages of development. Biop’s software is then able to distinguish between normal and cancerous cells, with the results returned a few minutes later, so both the care provider and the patient know what they are up against — instead of waiting long, agonizing weeks to find out if the patient is healthy or sick. (ToI 23.02)

Back to Table of Contents

8.2 Teva Sells its Sellersville, Pennsylvania Facility

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries signed an agreement to sell its Sellersville, Pennsylvania facility to G&W Laboratories, which is based in South Plainfield, NJ. This sale supports its plans to streamline operations by reducing excess manufacturing capacity and is part of the Company’s previously announced cost reduction program. The sale includes all buildings, land, and equipment located at the site. Under the terms of the agreement, G&W will manufacture and supply products to Teva from the site until production of these products is transferred to other sites in Teva’s network. Additionally, G&W will offer employment to all employees located at Sellersville. The transaction includes the sale to G&W of approximately 25 products from the Teva portfolio, which will be manufactured and sold by G&W in the U.S. under the G&W label. Further, the transaction includes the grant to G&W of exclusive rights to sell up to two additional Teva products in the U.S. under G&W’s label, which Teva will continue to manufacture at its Zagreb, Croatia facility. The transaction is expected to close in March or April 2015, after the appropriate regulatory review and the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. The Sellersville site currently produces generic drugs with a portfolio of more than 50 products manufactured as solid dose forms (tablets and capsules), liquids, creams and ointments.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is a leading global pharmaceutical company that delivers high-quality, patient-centric healthcare solutions to millions of patients every day. Headquartered in Israel, Teva is the world’s largest generic medicines producer, leveraging its portfolio of more than 1,000 molecules to produce a wide range of generic products in nearly every therapeutic area. (Teva 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

8.3 New Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer Takes Digital Dentistry to a Next Level

Stratasys introduced the Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer at the International Dental Show in Cologne, Germany. Leveraging Stratasys’ unique triple-jetting technology, the Objet260 Dental Selection raises the bar in 3D printed dental model realism to improve the accuracy and efficacy of digital dentistry. The versatile new 3D printer is designed to help mid- to large-sized dental and orthodontic labs grow their business by producing realistic models with true-to-life look and feel as part of their end-to-end digital dentistry workflow, including intra-oral scanners. Its ability to build diverse models with multiple materials on one tray, in one print job, increases productivity which can further improve profitability. Pivotal to the capabilities of the Objet260 Dental Selection is the ability to enable dental and orthodontic labs to enjoy unprecedented realism of the stone models. This permits the production of life-like gum textures for precise functional testing, as well as a wide range of shades for customized, color matching.

The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer is compatible with all PolyJet dental materials, plus an array of dental-specific material palettes to produce life-like colors and textures for teeth and gums. This allows users to serve a broader range of dental applications with a single system, reducing equipment costs. These usages span implant testing with stone models that mimic the look and feel of real gingiva for accurate functional evaluation, as well as models with rigid features that require gum-like materials. Labs can print surgical guides directly from CBCT scan data, with high-definition tooth, root and nerve-canal anatomy rendered in contrasting materials to help prevent dental nerve injury.

Stratasys, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rehovot, Israel, is a leading global provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions. The company’s patented FDM, PolyJet and WDM 3D Printing technologies produce prototypes and manufactured goods directly from 3D CAD files or other 3D content. Systems include 3D printers for idea development, prototyping and direct digital manufacturing. (Stratasys 09.03)

Back to Table of Contents

8.4 BioLineRx Raises $25 Million on Nasdaq

BioLineRx has raised $25 million on Nasdaq. The offering was at $2 per American Depository Share, compared with $2.81 per ADS on the morning of the announcement, in other words at a 29% discount. The price of the ADS fell to $2.12 following the offering, reflecting a $72.3 million market cap. The BioLineRx share was down 14% in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) trading. The offering follows a 123% surge in the share over three months, due mainly to an announcement of a $10 million investment in the company by pharmaceutical giant Novartis as part of a joint project by the two companies for discovering new drugs.

BioLineRx has other interesting clinical and business developments: positive interim results of its trial of a blood cancer drug, a licensing deal for a product for removal of skin lesions, and completion of patient recruitment for a multi-center trial of a product for reducing heart attack damage that has already been licensed to a partner company, which is likely to provide income from royalties for BioLineRx if the product is approved and marketed.

Jerusalem’s BioLineRx is a publicly-traded, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to identifying, in-licensing and developing promising therapeutic candidates. The Company in-licenses novel compounds primarily from academic institutions and biotech companies based in Israel, develops them through pre-clinical and/or clinical stages and then partners with pharmaceutical companies for advanced clinical development and/or commercialization. (Various 08.03)

Back to Table of Contents


9.1 Mellanox ConnectX-4 100Gb/s Adapter Delivers Record Results

Mellanox Technologies announced that its industry-leading ConnectX-4 EDR 100Gb/s InfiniBand adapter attained world-record performance results. Achieving InfiniBand throughput of 100Gb/s, bi-directional throughput of 195Gb/s, applications latency level of 610 nanoseconds and message rate of 149.5 million messages per second, ConnectX-4 is the highest performing adapter for the HPC, Web 2.0, cloud, machine learning, storage and enterprise applications. ConnectX-4 has already been selected to power CORAL (Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Lawrence Livermore National Labs) to help ease the Department of Energy’s new mission-critical applications. ConnectX-4 adapters are sampling today with select customers. With ConnectX-4, Mellanox offers a complete end-to-end EDR 100Gb/s InfiniBand solution, including the EDR 100Gb/s Switch-IB InfiniBand switch and LinkX 100Gb/s copper and fiber cables.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies is a leading supplier of end-to-end InfiniBand and Ethernet 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 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

9.2 Simgo Reveals the World’s First Virtual SIM Enabler for iPhone6

Ra’anana’s Simgo, the world’s first cloud-based virtual SIM platform provider, announced its Virtual SIM support foriPhone6. Simgo’s game-changing global enterprise communication service, now available in over 50 countries worldwide. Powered by Simgo’s virtual SIM technology, this service allows business travelers to enjoy always-on connectivity for toll-quality voice and high-speed data services while abroad at local rates. It puts an end to exorbitant roaming charges, while giving users a seamless experience that maximizes both productivity and convenience. Roamers use their smartphone as if they were home, enjoying all native features (home number, caller ID, direct phonebook dialing, applications, etc.) wherever they are. Simgo mobile service is offered to customers through its worldwide distribution network of MVNOs and local partners. (Simgo 26.02)

Back to Table of Contents

9.3 Siano Launches Smallest Integrated DVB-T2 Receiver Chip

Siano launched SMS4430, a new multi-standard digital TV receiver chip designed for mobile/portable consumer electronics applications. The SMS4430 presents a lower-cost, smaller-size, lower power-consumption version of Siano’s SMS4470, of which the company has already shipped millions of units. The DVB-T2 digital TV broadcast standard extends its deployment these days in South-East Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and more. ISDB-T is deployed in Japan, South America, the Philippines, and a few more countries. The SMS4430 is fully compliant with ETSI EN 302 755 ver. 1.3.1 (DVB-T2), including full support for DVB-T2-Lite; ETSI EN 300 744 V1.6.1 (DVB-T); NorDig unified spec ver. 2.4; and ARIB-STD-B31 (ISDB-T). It supports channel bandwidths of 1.7, 6, 7 and 8 MHz, over different spectrum bands: VHF-III (174-240MHz), VHF-I (47-88MHz), VHF-II (88-108MHz), UHF (400-806MHz) and L1 (1.5GHz). The SMS4430 is highly integrated (includes the RF tuner and related filters – on chip), and offered in a 7 x 7mm BGA package. In order to provide extended DTV reception capabilities for today’s spreading LTE environments, the chip includes a proprietary, innovative on-chip NoiseBuster engine. The chip consumes only 220mW of power when demodulating a high data rate DVB-T2 channel.

Kfar Netter’s Siano is the world’s leading supplier of mobile broadcast DTV solutions. Pioneers of the multi-standard approach, Siano provides high-performance and fast time-to-market digital TV solutions for mobile and consumer electronics, automotive and public transportation device makers and solution/service providers. Siano has close collaborations with global tier-1 makers of tablets, smartphones, car TVs, and electronic accessories such as Microsoft-Nokia, Huawei, ZTE, Sharp and others. (Siano 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

9.4 Mellanox Boosts DPDK Performance for NFV and Cloud

Mellanox Technologies announced the ConnectX-4 100Gb/s Ethernet NIC achieves as much as 75 million packets per second packet handling capabilities. This I/O packet performance breakthrough will drive adoption of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) in both service provider networks and enterprise cloud deployments. The new ConnectX-4 100Gb/s Ethernet NIC delivers line rate performance of over 90Gb/s throughput and as much as 75 million raw packet per second handling rate which represents a huge step forward in making NFV a reality for production deployment. The ConnectedX-4 NIC flexibly supports 10, 25, 40, 50 and 100GbE interfaces and supports advanced capabilities including RoCE, overlay network acceleration (VXLAN, NVGRE, and GENEVE), embedded virtual switch, and DPDK acceleration. The fully tuned performance results over DPDK for the ConnectX-4 NIC will be published when the poll mode driver is planned to be available in the second quarter. The ConnectX family of Ethernet NICs overcomes critical NFV throughput, packet handling, and latency performance limitations and thus allows customers to move from proof of concept to production deployments. With unmatched Ethernet throughput and packet handling performance, ConnectX-4 overcomes the perception that specialized hardware appliances deliver higher performance than server based solutions.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies is a leading supplier of end-to-end InfiniBand and Ethernet 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 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

9.5 Tehuti’s Industry First NBASE-T Adapter Reference Design for Enterprise Networks

Tehuti Networks announced the industry’s first NBASE-T adapter reference design capable of reaching 2.5 and 5 Gigabits per second over 100m of legacy Cat 5e cabling. Designed to support high-volume enterprise wireless local-area network (WLAN) OEM systems requiring multi-Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, such as 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless access points, the Tehuti NBASE-T adapter reference design offers a low-power, small form factor and low-cost solution enabling pervasive NBASE-T connectivity. NBASE-T technology boosts the speed of broadly deployed twisted pair copper cabling up to 100 meters in length well beyond the designed limits of 1 Gbps. Enterprise WLAN access point infrastructure is being upgraded en masse to accommodate the rapid growth of ever more powerful mobile devices. Specifically, 802.11ac Wave 2 provides nearly 20 times the bandwidth compared to 802.11n, with an aggregated throughput of up to 5Gbit/s. A key challenge in enterprises taking advantage of the latest WLAN infrastructure is that such systems are connected to backbone wired networks using 1Gbps Ethernet copper cable links which reduces the performance five-fold compared to the available bandwidth. Deployment of Tehuti NBASE-T adapters in 802.11ac Wave 2 Access Points allow increase in network speeds over existing Cat 5e/Cat 6 cables to up to 5 Gbps at lengths up to 100m.

Herzliya’s Tehuti Networks is a fabless semiconductor company focused on cost effective 10Gb Ethernet Network Traffic Accelerators, which enable volume adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). Tehuti Networks’ 10GbE controllers feature high performance coupled with low power, small footprint and an attractive cost. (Tehuti Networks 04.03)

Back to Table of Contents


10.1 Israel’s Economy Grew by 2.8% in 2014

On 10 March, the Central Bureau of Statistics published a revised figure for economic growth in 2014. In fixed prices, GDP rose 2.8% in 2014, compared with 3.2% in 2013 and 3.0% in 2012. Business product (output in economic sectors, excluding public services) was up 2.7% in 2014, following rises of 3.4% in 2013 and 2.9% in 2012. Per capita GDP rose 0.8% in fixed prices in 2014, after rising 1.3% in 2013 and 1.1% in 2.12. Seasonally adjusted figures for quarterly growth show 6.8% growth in the fourth quarter, compared with the previous figure of 7.2%, 0.2% in the third quarter, 1.7% in the second quarter and 3.0% in the first quarter. Total sources available to the economy were up 2.6% in 2014, following a 2.4% rise in 2013, with 2.3% growth in imports of goods and services. Figures for uses of sources show a 4.0% rise in spending on private consumption, a 4.2% rise in spending on public consumption, a 1.3% rise in exports of goods and services and a 2.5% drop in investment in fixed assets. The Central Bureau of Statistics figures show that real domestic income (GDP plus profits or losses resulting from changes in the terms for overseas trade) rose 2.7% in 2014, 0.1% less than the increase in GDP, as a result of losses caused by a worsening of trade terms, compared with profits of 0.2% in 2013 and 0.9% in 2012. (CBS 10.03)

Back to Table of Contents

10.2 Exports of Israeli Goods Increases by 22.9%

High-tech exports and private consumption are still pushing Israel’s economy forward. November 2014 – January 2015 figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics show that exports of goods surged by an annualized 22.9%, following a 24.4% jump in the three preceding months. The figures do not include exports of diamonds, ships, or airplanes. In contrast to the general rise in exports of goods, exports by traditional industries and exports of services and business services were much less positive.

Industrial exports (industry, mining, and quarrying, but excluding diamonds, ships, and airplanes), rose by an annualized 24.9% in November 2014-January 2015, following a 24.3% increase in the preceding three months. A breakdown by type of technology categories shows that exports grew in most categories, other than industries with mixed traditional technology. The rise in exports was particularly outstanding in high tech (electronics, aircraft, and pharmaceuticals). Exports of services (excluding startups) dipped 1.7% in November 2014-January 2015, following a 6.4% rise in the two preceding months. Exports of tourist services were up 2.1% in November 2014 – January 2015, on the heels of an 11.8% jump in the two preceding months. Exports of business services (excluding startups) were down 2.8% in November 2014-January 2015, after climbing 5.1% in the two preceding months. (CBS 26.02)

Back to Table of Contents

10.3 Israeli Car Sales Dip in February but Still Strong

Israel’s automotive sales industry has dropped down a gear from the January peak, but is still posting good results. There were 21,850 vehicles were delivered in Israel in February, 2.7% more than in February 2013. Some 55,480 new vehicles have been delivered so far this year, 15% more than in the corresponding period last year. Hyundai is the leading brand, with 7,035 deliveries, 24% more than in the corresponding period last year. Second is Toyota, with 5,852 deliveries, up 33.5%. Kia places third, with 5,718 deliveries, up 24%. Mazda is fourth, with 5,557 deliveries, up 3.4%; Mitsubishi is fifth, with 3,982 deliveries, up 43%; and sixth is Skoda, with 3,308 deliveries, up 2.4%. Israelis continue to rush to buy SUVs. 7,866 vehicles in this category were delivered in January – February this year, 34% more than in the corresponding period of 2013. (Globes 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents

10.4 Israeli Teachers’ Salaries Rise 54% in Past Decade

The salaries of teachers and inspectors in Israel’s education system have risen 54% over the past decade from an average of NIS 6,807 per month to NIS 10,438, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced. In real terms (after the rise in the Consumer Price Index is deducted) this is a rise of 29%. The salaries of teachers in haredi high schools is only half that of their colleagues in state high schools. The rapid rise of teacher’s salaries has significantly improved their standing in relation to other sectors in the economy. In 2003 – 2005, teachers’ salaries were the same as the average salary in the Israeli economy but today the average teachers’ salary of NIS 10,438 is well above the average salary in the economy of NIS 9,150. However, the average salary of female teachers, at NIS 10,129 is still below the average male salary in the Israeli economy of NIS 10,953. The average salary of a male teacher today is NIS 12,051. A teachers’ starting salary has risen by 505 from NIS 4,000 in 2007 to NIS 6,000 in 2012. (CBS 02.03)

Back to Table of Contents


11.1 JORDAN: Jordan Moves To Address Energy Crunch

On 25 February, the Oxford Business Group observed that rising demand for power and disruptions to gas supplies from Egypt have left Jordan struggling to meet its energy requirements, with imports adding to the economic headache.

Jordan currently buys in around 97% of the energy it consumes. Primary demand continues to grow at an annual rate of around 5.5%. A drive to bolster local energy production is now gaining pace, as Jordan moves to forge new partnerships for a raft of wide-ranging projects that will help it diversify its power mix.

Oil Prices Take Their Toll

Jordan has received less than a third of contracted gas supplies from Egypt since 2011, due to the repeated sabotage of the Arab Gas Pipeline. Technical problems on the line, combined with the Egyptian government’s decision to divert supplies for domestic use, have exacerbated the situation, forcing the kingdom to seek alternative fuel oil imports.

Lower international oil prices have pushed down the cost of imported energy in recent months. Nonetheless, Jordan’s energy problems remain complex.

The price of crude edged upwards in late January, prompting speculation that the recent decline in oil prices could now be tailing off. Yet last month also brought a warning from the World Bank that falling oil prices over the medium term could see savings to the kingdom’s economy outweighed by losses in the form of lower remittances from Jordanians working in oil-dependent GCC countries. Lower oil prices could also lead to a reduction in aid from GCC governments.

New Projects a Priority

However, a raft of new initiatives is paving the way for Jordan to reduce its reliance on energy imports and bolster local energy production regardless of the international oil price environment.

The kingdom’s renewable electricity plans received a major boost at the end of last year when the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the French Development Finance Institution, PROPARCO, announced they would provide loans totaling $100m for solar energy projects. In early January, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Mohammad Hamed said the country will expand the capacity of the national electricity grid by 1000 MW to around 5300 MW using these funds. The government expects work to begin on the project before the end of March and is targeting completion within two years.

It is hoped the move will pave the way for the re-launch of its third renewable energy tender. The government sought applications from investors last year to build 100 MW solar or wind plants, but put projects on hold when attempts to allocate GCC funding for distribution capacity constraints proved unsuccessful.

Some projects have been more successful. The authorities issued a renewable electricity license – its thirteenth – in early January to Falcon Maan for Solar Energy for the construction of a 21 MW solar farm in Maan in the south of the country, at a cost of $51m.

Hamed said last year that around 1800 MW of renewables capacity should be connected to the national grid by 2018, equivalent to almost half of the kingdom’s 2013 electricity production of 3566 MW.

Boosting Supplies a Priority

Jordan has also moved to secure replacements for disrupted Egyptian gas supplies. A $65m liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, which is under construction at the port of Aqaba and scheduled for completion by July, will allow the kingdom to diversify its gas supplies. Further down the line, Jordan is looking to lock in supplies from recent gas discoveries in the nearby Eastern Mediterranean.

In late January, Hamad said the authorities are looking to reach an agreement to import around 150m standard cu feet per day (scfd) of gas from Cyprus by the middle of the year. The gas is expected to be delivered in LNG form via the Aqaba terminal. Shortly afterwards, Hamed said the authorities are also in talks with BG Group to import gas from Gaza offshore waters, where the UK firm has a production concession called Marine Field.

Last year, Jordan reached an agreement with Israel that will allow the kingdom to begin importing $500m of gas for its potash and bromine plants on the Dead Sea from the Tamar field over a 15-year period starting 2016.

Jordan had also entered into discussions with Israel on the subject of importing around $15b of gas from the neighboring Leviathan field. However, in early January, the authorities said talks had been suspended over uncertainty about who would develop the field. Purchasing gas from Israel has proved to be politically controversial for the kingdom, with the majority of MPs voting in December against proposals to import from the Leviathan field.

The deals will support Jordan’s bid to meet domestic demand for power in what remains a challenging regional climate. In the long term, production of both Palestinian and Cypriot gas could play a key role in boosting much-needed regional supplies once operations begin. (OBG 25.02)

Back to Table of Contents

11.2 EGYPT: Economy Beginning to Recover After Four Years of Slow Activity

Bank Audi’s Egypt Report 2015 stated that ambitious policies implemented so far, along with a relative return of confidence, are starting to produce a turnaround in Egypt’s economic activity and investment.

On the back of a 6.8% growth in the third quarter of 2014, triggered by manufacturing, construction and the Suez Canal, the IMF is projecting growth will reach 3.8% in FY 2014/2015, almost double its pace registered since the first revolution in 2011. While the economy is still operating way below potential output, it is closing part of its cyclical output gap with its real output growth now exceeding its population growth at large.

Deficit in the balance of payments on the back of rising imports

Egypt’s external accounts registered an overall deceleration in 2014, as stagnating exports coupled with increasing imports led to a widening of the trade deficit. This has overweighed the registered improvement in tourism and official transfers’ revenues, causing a deficit in the balance of payments after the significant surplus of the previous year. As a matter of fact, Egypt’s overall balance of payments moved from a surplus of $ 4.5 billion in 9M 2013 to a deficit of $ 111 million in 9M 2014.

Public Finances Set To Benefit From Fiscal Consolidation And Lower Oil Prices

The restoration of relative local political stability accompanied by a relatively improved investment climate and the launch of initiatives towards fiscal consolidation along with current lower oil prices, are set to leave a positive impact on Egypt’s public finances. Egypt’s spending on fuel subsidies in FY 2015 could be 35% lower than budgeted if oil prices remain at current levels. The budget for fiscal year 2014/2015 targets a deficit of 10% of GDP. It incorporates subsidy cuts that were implemented in July 2014, gas price increases to households by over 200%, as well as tax measures on dividends and capital gains, implementation of a new property tax, income taxes at the higher income brackets, and excises on tobacco and alcohol, which together yield 2.5% of GDP.

Accommodative Monetary Policy Amidst Lower Core Inflation

Egypt’s monetary conditions witnessed so far in fiscal year 2015 a mild depreciation in local currency against the US Dollar after remaining relatively stable in FY 2014, a drop in average core inflation, which is more indicative of future inflation trends than headline inflation, a contraction in gross official reserves after the repayment of Qatar’s deposit, and a shift from a tight monetary policy to an accommodative one, given the relatively reduced inflation risks amidst dwindling oil prices. Core CPI fell from 10.2% on average in FY 2014 to 8.3% on average during the first seven months of FY 2015, prompting the CBE to cut policy rates in January 2015. The broader money supply (M2) expanded by 10.2% in $ terms during the first eleven months of 2014, to reach $ 219.9 billion at end-November 2014 following a lower growth of 8.8% in 2013.

Healthy Banking Activity Growth On The Back Of Improving Financial Soundness

Measured by the total assets of banks operating in Egypt, sector activity jumped by 17.6% in local currency terms (14.3% in US Dollar terms) over the first 11 months of 2014. It reached the equivalent of $276.9 billion at end-November. In parallel, total credit facilities grew by 12.4% in local currency terms over the same period (+9.2% in US Dollar terms). While lending growth picked up lately, asset quality metrics continued to ameliorate. The non-performing loans to total loans ratio reached a post-revolution low of 9.1% at end-June 2014 as per the latest available Central Bank statistics. Not less importantly, profitability of banks operating in Egypt got a boost from higher lending activity and relatively high yielding government securities, coupled with lower provisions.

Significant Capital Market Gains Amidst Improved Investor Sentiment

Egyptian capital markets extended their upward trajectory over the year 2014, mainly supported by the stabilized local political and security conditions, the launch of government initiatives towards fiscal consolidation and the potential external financial assistance through the upcoming international summit.

The bourse main benchmark index (EGX 30) rose significantly by 31.6% in 2014 to close at 8,926.58 at year end. Amidst improved investor sentiment, the total volume of traded securities almost doubled year-on year, moving from 29,190 million shares in 2013 to a record high level of 57,230 million shares in 2014. As to the cost of insuring debt, Egypt’s five-year CDS spreads shrank significantly by 323 bps over the year 2014, outlining an improvement in market perception of country risks at large. (Bank Audi 03.03)

Back to Table of Contents

11.3 TURKEY: From ‘Zero Problems’ To Zero Trade

Al Monitor posted that Turkey’s becoming party to internal conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa is now affecting its business connections, in addition to its political relations. While Egypt was saying that it will stop Turkish roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry trips, another serious blow came from Libya. The Tobruk-based government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni accused Turkey of arming Islamists and decided to expel Turkish companies from Libya.

Turkish companies in Libya are owed $4.5 billion and construction equipment worth $7 billion. During the civil war, $1.2 billion worth of machinery was looted from Turkish work sites. What will happen to the debt and the rest of the equipment is not yet clear.

Turkey is supporting the legitimacy of the National General Congress (NGC) controlled by Islamists and government of Omar al-Hasi against the Tobruk-based government that was appointed by the Representatives Assembly elected in June 2014, making Turkish entities unwanted in parts of Libya. The Hasi government is working under the NGC, which was tasked with managing the constitutional process but has not transferred authority to the new parliament.

Turkey, citing the decision of the Libyan Constitutional Court that annulled the election, says the government in Tripoli still maintains its legitimacy. While the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt adopted pro-Tobruk positions, Turkey has hardened its pro-Tripoli stance.

Following the execution of 21 Egyptian Copts by the Islamic State (IS) and Egypt’s reprisals, the Tobruk front further toughened its anti-Turkey position and in an extraordinary 22 February meeting in Bayda, decided to expel Turkish companies from Libya.

Immediately after the decision was announced, in a statement to daily Asharq al-Awsat, Thinni accused Turkey of supporting terrorists in Libya and said, “Turkey’s position is wrong. We have to take countermeasures. At the end of the day, Turkey will lose.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded by warning that unless Libyan officials change their attitudes, Turkey will take “necessary measures.”

Assurances from Tripoli

Omar Hussein Bagyu, spokesman for the Tripoli government, which has good relations with Ankara, told Turkey’s official Anatolian Agency that the decision of the Tobruk administration applies only to the areas it controls. Ersin Takla, chairman of Turkey-Libya Business Council, is not as optimistic as the Tripoli government. He said, “If you recognize the Tobruk government as the official government of Libya as the UN does, then we have to assume that decision applies to all of Libya. In such a situation, our account with Libya will be settled.”

The Thinni government controls Tobruk, Bayda and Ecdebiye in eastern Libya and Zintan and Zawiye in the west. Tripoli and Misrata are under the control of militiamen of Libyan Dawn, which supports Hasi. In Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia is dominant, and in Derme and parts of Sirte, IS. Many Turkish companies have suspended their operations in many places because of the clashes.

Turkey Understates the Crisis

Turkish businessmen are in tense waiting mode. Chairman of the Ankara Chamber of Industry Nurettin Ozdebir expressed their anxiety, saying, “Our businessmen who cannot collect the money owed to them now risk losing their machinery assets. We hope the government will find a solution.”

There is at the moment no hope that the government can reverse the crisis. Ankara’s only hope is for the UN to conclude its reconciliation efforts as soon as possible. A government source speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity attributed this drastic decision to expel Turkish companies to pressures exerted by Egypt, saying, “After the massacre of 21 Copts, Tobruk has been under stronger Egyptian influence. In fact, the chairman of the Representatives Assembly, Akile Salih, is uneasy with this decision by Thinni. We have been unofficially informed of that sentiment. We as Turkey want the problem between the Tobruk and Tripoli governments to be solved through negotiations. But Thinni refused to attend the meeting planned in Morocco as part of the UN mediation. This is attributed to the increasing influence of Egypt.”

According to this source, Salih was invited to Ankara last month to discuss a peaceful solution and the return of Turkish companies to Libya. He was to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on 14 January. But Salih, who kept some meetings in Istanbul, did not go to his appointments in Ankara. Three times earlier on, Salih had sent special envoys to Ankara to ask for the Turkish businessmen to be allowed to return to Libya. The government source said it was Egypt that persuaded Salih not to go to Ankara, saying, “We offered two alternative dates — on 19 and 26 January — to the Tobruk side instead of the 14 January meeting that wasn’t held. They still didn’t come. But the chairman of the [Tripoli] National General Congress, Nuri Abu Sehmein, accepted our invitation and came on 16 January for meetings.”

The same source, discussing the effects of the expulsion of Turkish companies, said, “We should not overstate the significance of the declaration of the Tobruk side. This government rules Tobruk, Bayda and Merc with a total population of not even 300,000. Therefore, it is a decision that applies to companies working in those three cities. For example, a Turkish company called 77 Insaat is continuing with road construction at Kufra. But upon the request of the Tobruk government, we withdrew the Karadeniz mobile electricity power ship.”

According to the Turkish Contractors Union, since 1973, Turkish contractors in Libya have completed more than 565 projects with a total value of $29 billion. In 2011, the Turkish government had first rejected foreign intervention against leader Moammar Gadhafi because of Turkish business contracts and money owed to them. Erdogan — who had initially asked “What does NATO have to do in Libya?” — eventually agreed to establish the main headquarters for NATO’s intervention in Izmir and carried out sustained negotiations with the transition government for the money owed to Turkish contractors. Some of the 200 Turkish companies operating in Libya have engaged international arbitration but still have not collected the money owed to them.

Ro-Ro blow from Egypt

The crisis faced by Turkish businesses is not limited to Libya. Turkey’s export sector, which has been coming up with alternative routes after losing its Syrian routes, is now gearing up to pay the cost of the crisis with Egypt because of Turkey’s non-recognition of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Egypt has said it will not renew the agreement covering Ro-Ro ferryboat trips when it expires on 20 April. Following the loss of transit routes through Syria, Turkish exporters shifted their routes to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries by organizing Ro-Ro ferries between Iskendurun and Port Said. This route was regulated by agreements signed between Turkey-Egypt and Egypt-Saudi Arabia in 2012. If a new agreement cannot be reached with Egypt, Turkish exporters will suffer heavily.

Serafettin Asut, chairman of the Mersin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “We have two alternatives. Either we will persuade Egypt or send ships carrying our goods through the Suez Canal. This, of course, means higher costs.” Problems with Libya and Egypt will increase the pressure on the Turkish economy, which is already sending warning signals. But Erdogan’s uncompromising attitude is limiting the maneuvering room of the Turkish government, even if it’s willing to be flexible. (Al-Monitor 27.02)

Back to Table of Contents


The Fortnightly newsletter is a free service of Atid, EDI. We are a team of economic and trade development consultants, headquartered in Jerusalem, but active throughout the region and beyond. EDI works with an international clientele interested in identifying and researching business opportunities in the region. We also serve as the regional representative offices for a number of U.S. states and bilateral Chambers of Commerce, as well as European clients.

EDI’s other services include development of feasibility studies and tailored research reports, as well as identification of potential joint ventures for commercial clients.