RealTime IT News

Popular Portal Goes Public on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

Following weeks of speculation, Walla Communications' will be the first Internet portal serving the Israeli public with a listing on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE).

Walla Communications (formerly Mashov Computers Marketing Ltd.), one of a handful of Internet companies traded on the TASE, decided to raise funds after the company profits rose more than 1,400 percent during the last year.

Walla Communications is best known for its portal Walla!, a leading Israeli portal serving about 50,000 customers a day. The site offers more than 80,000 e-mail accounts, chat groups, forums and the newest service: free Internet site building.

The site sparked the interests of investors, who are very familiar with the success stories of Yahoo! and the like, said analyst Zkiva Elberger. However, he adds, we should remember that this is a losing company, with an income of less than 10 million NIS ($2.4 million) this year and is traded today locally at a market value of about 110 million NIS ($27 million).

Pini Sternshos, Walla's vice president for marketing, emphasized that the company is always coming up with innovations and new site additions.

Within the next few days, Walla is slated to come out with a new consumer magazine, called V-Shop, that will compare product costs online and with a food magazine, that will be associated with a TV show on this subject. The Walla organization has doubled in size and they are currently in different stages of integration with at least a dozen cooperative ventures for services, content, communities and electronic commerce applications.

Has Internet stock fever struck Israel? Elberger said that he sees the beginning of this and that Israeli investors are 'hungry' for the Internet. This is obvious with Walla stocks climbing over the last few months, due to the rumors about a big deal brewing, and that even other Walla company stocks, related to the Internet, jumped due to the sites or the services they would supposedly provide via the Internet. On the other hand, aside from Walla, there is no other Israeli stock that is a 'pure' Internet stock. No other portal but Walla is traded on the local exchange and it is hard to infer from this how similar stock would fair in the future.