Israel markets regulator Hauser to step down in January

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israel Securities Authority (ISA) said its Chairman Shmuel Hauser, who led the charge to turn the country’s stock exchange into a for-profit bourse, will step down in January after 6-1/2 years as markets regulator.

The ISA said on Tuesday that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has nominated Anat Guetta, who most recently was chief executive of proxy advisory firm Entropy Financial Research for seven years, to replace Hauser. Guetta was also head of the commercial credit department at credit card issuer Visa Cal.

“The finance minister asked me to stay until the beginning of 2018 in order to complete what the authority and ministry have initiated,” Hauser said, citing proposals to establish infrastructure for a secondary stock exchange, bring in a foreign bourse as a strategic partner and expand dual listings to include exchanges in Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto.

“I hope they will be completed by the end of the year,” he said.

Much of Hauser’s tenure was devoted to trying to boost trading volumes at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) after Israel lost a chunk of passive investment when it was upgraded to developed market status from emerging by index compiler MSCI six years ago.

He often clashed with TASE management over how to revive volumes, leading to the resignations of both the CEO and chairman of the exchange within a week in mid-2013.

After reaching an average of 2 billion shekels ($572 million) a day in 2010, volumes slid. Share trading has improved this year, averaging 1.4 billion shekels a day over the first 10 months of 2017, up from 1.3 billion in 2016.

Earlier this year Israel enacted a law that demutualised the TASE and ended banks’ control in a reform aimed at turning it into a for-profit bourse, a move Hauser said would turn the TASE into a more competitive and efficient exchange.

Hauser, who has been a proponent of easing some regulations in recent years amid an anti-business sentiment in Israel, also helped Israel pass a law this year that bans local firms from selling binary options overseas by online trading.

Most recently, Hauser took on Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq Israel Telecom, the country’s largest telecoms group, and other officials at Bezeq and the Communications Ministry for possible fraud and financial reporting offences. Elovitch denies wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, the ISA it had found enough evidence to support bringing criminal charges against senior officials at Bezeq.

($1 = 3.4973 shekels)

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Adrian Croft