Israel Gas Policy Debate Drives Down Explorers’ Stock

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Tel Aviv oil and gas shares dropped the most since February as the government struggled to unplug a regulatory logjam stalling the development of Israel’s biggest natural gas field.

The Tel Aviv Oil and Gas Index slumped 3.3 percent, the most since February 24, at the close in Tel Aviv, even after the Israeli cabinet voted to override objections from the antitrust authority to a contested policy for developing the fields.

“The outline that has been formulated breaks up the monopoly,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet in Jerusalem, according to an e-mailed statement from Netanyahu’s office. The new policy will be submitted to legislators for public scrutiny.

Israel’s failure to draft a coherent gas strategy six years after it discovered large offshore reserves has delayed development of the Leviathan field, held primarily by Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. and Israel’s Delek Group Ltd. Thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening against the government’s decision to override the antitrust authority. Four protestors were arrested, Israeli police said in a text message.

“There is some uncertainty whether the Knesset will approve the transfer of authority to the government, and public sentiment is very anti right now,” Noam Pincu, an analyst at Tel Aviv-based Psagot Investment House Ltd., said by phone. “This has to pass the Knesset and though I assume it will, it isn’t something trivial” when the government has such a small majority, he said.

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