TEL AVIV (MarketWatch) -- Israeli stocks rose on Thursday, led by strength in Israel Chemicals and the banks and with the telecom companies in focus because Israel's smallest cellular carrier agreed to be acquired..
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's benchmark TA-25 Index closed 1.19% higher to 1122.31 while the TA-100 Index /quotes/comstock/!ta100 (XX:TA100 1,039, +13.07, +1.27%) climbed 1.27% to 1039.00.
The Tel-Tech 15 Index of top technology issues was 0.26% higher at 227.43.
The most-active issue was fertilizer producer Israel Chemicals, trading up 3.5%. Agrichemicals specialist Makhteshim Agan added 2.5%.
Among the cellular companies, Bezeq rose 0.7%, Cellcom /quotes/comstock/13*!cel/quotes/nls/cel (CEL 31.46, -0.24, -0.76%) fell 1.2% and Partner /quotes/comstock/15*!ptnr/quotes/nls/ptnr (PTNR 19.33, +0.07, +0.36%) slipped 0.7%.
The French investor Patrick Drahi won a bidding process and agreed to pay $170 million for the Mirs, a subsidiary of Motorola. The announcement was made by Hot, one of Israel's satellite-TV providers. A Drahi-controlled company owns 44% of Hot.
Reuters reported that Mirs has 4% to 5% of Israel's cellular market. The investment bank Excellence Nessuah said Mirs "relies on Motorola's antiquated iDen technology. ... [Any] acquirer that is not an existing cellular operator will have to invest a further $200 million to $250 million" to upgrade the network.
Reports here had said that an Israeli investor, Hezi Bezalel, had also been bidding for Mirs.
Among the banks, Leumi and Hapoalim /quotes/comstock/11i!bkhyy (BKHY.Y 19.50, +0.50, +2.63%) added 2.4% apiece, Discount climbed 1.7% and Mizrahi Tefahot /quotes/comstock/11i!umzrf (UMZRF 9.41, -0.03, -0.31%) moved up 3.2%.
Among the foods makers, Osem /quotes/comstock/11i!osemf (OSEMF 12.89, +0.82, +6.83%) advanced 1% and Strauss /quotes/comstock/11i!sgljf (SGLJF 14.41, -0.04, -0.31%) crept up 0.2%.
Within the technology sector, biotech firm Kamada continued to slump, down 2.4%. Since the middle of November, the stock has lost a quarter of its value.
Also declining: semiconductor-solutions provider EZChip, /quotes/comstock/15*!ezch/quotes/nls/ezch (EZCH 12.95, +0.30, +2.37%) by 1.7%, and Given Imaging, /quotes/comstock/15*!givn/quotes/nls/givn (GIVN 16.59, -0.21, -1.25%) the producer of a pill-based endoscopy solution, by 1.5%.
Top gainers included Ceragon Networks, /quotes/comstock/15*!crnt/quotes/nls/crnt (CRNT 10.83, +0.06, +0.56%) up 3%, tech-investment manager Formula Systems, /quotes/comstock/15*!fort.y (FORT.Y 11.30, +0.11, +0.98%) up 1.8%, and Gilat, /quotes/comstock/15*!gilt/quotes/nls/gilt (GILT 4.70, -0.01, -0.21%) the producer of satellite-based communications networks, up 1.9%.
In a note, Barclays Capital said that Israel "passed through the global recession with only light damage and the economy is ready to resume growing."
Israel's "financial sector was not as vulnerable" as that of other countries "and therefore did not sustain as severe a damage to its balance sheet," Barclays emerging-markets analysts wrote.
In addition, "the decline in domestic demand was limited by radical monetary-policy loosening, and improvement in net exports offset the declines in domestic demand."
Robert Daniel is MarketWatch's Middle East bureau chief, based in Tel Aviv.