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Smart investors follow Buffett into Israel

Posted By ISRAEL21c Staff On November 11, 2007 @ 7:00 pm In | No Comments

Offering investors global diversification and exposure to some hot parts of the world economy.At IsraelNewsletter, we focus on opportunities to find undiscovered Israeli companies. More than 120 Israeli companies trade on US exchanges and even more trade on global exchanges. Most of these companies are small and mid caps, while a few, like generic pharmaceutical giant, Teva Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: TEVA) are large caps. This provides diligent investors with ample opportunities to make money.



Warren Buffett knows this, and that’s why he made his largest ever international investment by purchasing 80% of Israeli metalworks company, Iscar, for $4 billion last year. Buffett said, on his first visit to Israel, that “Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) and Israel will be here forever, as Israel and the US will be here forever.”



Likewise, The Donald (Trump) signed two huge realty deals in Israel last year: a partnership in purchasing a building in Ramat Gan for $44 million, and a contract to erect a luxury hotel bearing his name on a sea-side cliff in Netanya.



Israeli companies are hot and many of them are looking for growth internationally. Bloomberg reported last week about international expansion by a few of the leading Israeli conglomerates. The article describes plans by Israeli billionaire Nochi Danker and his firm, IDB, to partner with fellow Israeli investor, Yitzhak Tshuva to invest as much as $8 billion in constructing a Las Vegas casino.



With seven million inhabitants, growth prospects within Israel are interesting but certainly less interesting than investing abroad. Investors can look to Israeli firms like Elbit Medical Systems (NASDAQ: EMITF). My colleague, Aaron Katsman, explains that this company is essentially a holding company for real estate investments in booming India, Central and Eastern Europe and an incubator for two venture-stage biotech companies staged to go public. With over a $1 billion market cap, the sum-of-the-parts of this one may vastly exceed its current valuation.



Looking for Israeli companies investing abroad, small-cap food investors have been trying to size up Israeli food manufacturer and distributor, G. Willi-Food (Nasdaq:WILC). Investors are not alone in their interest in the company. The company announced last week that it had signed a binding letter of intent to form a new joint company with the owners of Shamir Salads, an Israeli manufacturer/distributor of prepackaged, chilled kosher Mediterranean dips and spreads in Israel and abroad. Such a spicy combination attracted the interest of Israeli billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak, who controls a huge egg business in Russia. He recently signed a deal with G. Willi to begin importing G. Willi’s high-end dairy product to the nouveau riche in Russia.



Other Israeli companies are looking for foreign investors. Comverse Technology (OTC: CMVT) has been a frequently-rumored buyout candidate by some of the largest global technology players, including Oracle Corporation (Nasdaq: ORCL). Comverse itself is somewhat of an investment fund. In addition to its core business of providing value-added voice mail service, software, and billing, Comverse owns large stakes in leading communications-interception firm Verint (OTC: VRNT) and telecommunications software company, Ulticom (OTC: ULCM).



Comverse is working diligently to regain its listing status on Nasdaq after needing to restate results after an options pricing scandal. Its founder and CEO, Kobi Alexander, now resides in Namibia, evading US calls for his extradition. Not without its fair share of controversy, Comverse may still be an interesting M&A target. With almost $2 billion in cash on the books and a new CEO, international investors see value in its holdings.



Elbit Medical, G. Willi-Food, and Comverse Technologies are all considered some of the best “Israeli Ingenuity” companies. These firms and others offer investors global diversification and exposure to some hot parts of the world economy.



Investors following on super-investor Warren Buffett’s coattails have almost always done well.



(Disclosure: Writer’s fund is long EMITF, WILC, and CMVT as of 11/7/07.)


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