JERUSALEM, Aug 21 (Reuters) - E-commerce giant Amazon on Wednesday launched a Hebrew-language website to recruit local Israeli companies to sell their products via Amazon.com, the latest step towards launching a local business in the country.
Sites such as Amazon have become increasingly popular in Israel where the cost of living is high, but locals currently have to order from the company's international sites, for example in the United States, Britain and Germany.
There has been widespread speculation in Israel’s media that Amazon plans to open a local fulfilment centre.
Amazon started reaching out to Israeli businesses in May, inviting them to join its local delivery programme, which allows firms to use an Amazon.com seller account to fulfil orders to customers in Israel and abroad using local inventory.
Amazon did not say how many Israeli retailers had registered and declined to say when it was planning to fully launch a local business, saying only that it would be "soon".
Shares in Israel's shopping malls were down as much as 1% in Tel Aviv on Wednesday after Amazon's announcement.
The new web site includes interviews with chief executives of Israeli firms already selling on Amazon explaining how the platform transformed their businesses and gave them access to new markets.
Amazon said it was working with Israeli retailers on how to sell globally as well as locally.
"We hope that through this programme, we will be able to provide our customers in Israel with even more local products to choose from, with quicker delivery speeds," Amazon said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Orders via international websites below $75 are exempt from value added taxes in Israel, while orders up to $500 are free from customs duties. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)