Heads of local investment houses split on ME turmoil impact

Declaration of Palestinian independence "could give foreign investors coming to Israel a better feeling."

By NADAV SHEMER
May 16, 2011 23:36
3 minute read.
Investment house chiefs

Invest 311. (photo credit: Niv Kantor)

Amid ongoing uncertainty over the regional turmoil in the Middle East, the heads of Israel’s largest investment houses are split over what the short-term effects will be on the local capital markets.

Of the 10 CEOs present at the annual Dun & Bradstreet forum for leading investment house executives in Givatayim on Thursday, opinions ranged from those who see opportunity in current geopolitical events to those who don’t see the events having any immediate impact. However, there was a general consensus that it was nearly impossible to calculate the risks to the market of regional geopolitical developments.

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Clal Finance chief Tal Raz suggested that in light of the present threats to Israel, punctuated by Sunday’s violence along the Israeli-Syrian border, what was needed was to take specific steps “that are not too extreme,” in which finances are moved abroad to the United States or elsewhere.

While admitting that weak first-quarter economic results from the US were also a cause for concern, he said 350 of the Fortune 500 companies had surpassed expectations in recent financial reports. “We think that the US market will return to normal,” he said.

Raz said the Israeli market could capitalize on the unique opportunity presented by the increasing possibility there will be a declaration of Palestinian independence in September.

“I look at it from a positive perspective,” he said. “I think that it could certainly help us to expedite our own decisions, and it could also give foreign investors coming to Israel a better feeling.”

Psagot CEO Ronen Tov said the time had come to place a greater emphasis on hedging risks and on looking abroad.

Meitav’s Ilan Raviv said Sunday’s violence was proof that “the penny had dropped” and that events in the Middle East could become either a trigger for the withdrawal of foreign investment and consequent damage to the market or, alternatively, an opportunity to attract foreign investors, as was the case when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.

“I think that there is definitely an opportunity leading up to September to grab the bull by the horn and to take initiative,” he said, adding, “I think the market can continue to prosper.”

Tachlit Investment House CEO Eyal Segal said geopolitical events generally don’t have an immediate effect on markets, and it would take a greater economic crisis to have such an impact.

“In the coming months I assume that we will see more volatility, but I don’t see an influence on the market’s direction,” he said.

Peilim CEO Rebecca Algrisi said there was always economic impact from geopolitical problems.

“We haven’t made any changes to the investment portfolio because we see strong economic data, despite what is happening on the political front,” she said.

The moderator of the panel discussion, Globes editor Hagai Golan, steered the participants toward the growing housing bubble.

Analysts Investment House chief Itzik Shenidovsky said the real-estate market was currently going through some sort of stabilizing period. He predicted there could be “a not insignificant decrease in prices,” although prices could continue to rise in outlying towns in the North and South.

The forum participants also addressed the question of whether to charge management fees and discussed the topic of executive pay. They generally agreed it was not possible to offer their services without some sort of fee.

Excellence CEO David Baruch said each investment house needed to decide how much to charge according to its specific considerations.


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