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(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
IT WAS difficult to detect whether there was approval or disapproval in the voice of Gurion Meltzer, chairman of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce when he introduced guest speaker Ronit Kan to members of the Chamber last week as "The first director-general of the Israel Anti-Trust Authority who was not a lawyer by profession."
Indeed Kan's appointment in late 2005 was a controversial issue that provoked much criticism against then Minister of Industry and Trade Ehud Olmert, who overlooked several other candidates whose qualifications were more in line with the position, in order to give the top job in the Anti-Trust Authority to a woman.
Kan, 39, does have an MBA from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and before joining the Anti-Trust Authority, spent 15 years in various managerial roles in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, most recently as director of Foreign Trade Administration.
As a veteran of the Ministry, Kan is familiar with the work of the Chamber, and spent much of her allotted time lauding the Chamber whose high standards and intensive activities, she said, were an inspiration and an example for new chambers of commerce.
The work and efficiency of the Chamber was praised to an even greater extent by Australian Ambassador Tim Georgem who is winding up his term in Israel, and who has enjoyed a very close relationship with the Chamber during his three years at the post.
Keenly aware of the Chamber's limited staff, George described its achievement as "phenomenal," and attributed much of the Chamber's ongoing success to its executive director Paul Israel.
In a reference to business opportunities in both Australia and Israel, George said: "There's tremendous potential out there and our job is to find ways to exploit it."
Given the globalization of industry and the growing number of bi-national and multi-national mergers, George considered it a good initiative on the part of the Chamber to have Kan explain some of the work of the Anti-Trust Authority, the Australian equivalent of which is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission headed by Graeme Samuel, who, said George, "has an interest in Israel that augurs well for future relations between the two bodies."
The ACCC, which was formerly the Australian Trade Practices Commission, was established in 1995 - a year after the establishment of Israel's Anti-Trust Authority. In a nutshell, its task is to promote competition and fair trade and to enforce consumer protection laws.
The Anti-Trust Authority, said Kan, is an independent authority that focuses primarily on mergers, monopolies and cartels with the aim of encouraging competition and safeguarding the interests of the consumer.
"Whenever there is harm to competition," she said, "there is harm to the consumer."
Mergers and cartels by their very nature can bring about the raising of prices, reduction of services and diminished competition, she pointed out, explaining that this was one of the reasons that the Anti-Trust Authority objected to the Dor Alon Energy merger with Sonol Israel, which had initially been approved by the Restrictive Trade Practices Tribunal but was overturned by the Supreme Court following an appeal by the Anti-Trust Authority which was concerned about material damage to the competition.
With regard to monopolies, the Anti-Trust Authority carefully monitors prices, but does not determine what they should be unless they are so high as to prove harmful to the consumer. The law allows the Anti-Trust Authority to place a ceiling on prices in such cases where it thinks that the monopoly has overstepped the line.
The law also allows the Anti-Trust Authority to prosecute cartels and five cartels are currently facing charges, said Kan.
An ardent advocate for competition in business, Kan underscored that the capacity of Israeli companies to compete on the local market is the key to their ability to compete on the international market.
SONOL CEO Yossi Anturg has announced his resignation from the company, effective on September 1. Anturg, who is stepping down for personal reasons, will be replaced by Avi Ovadia, who will take over on September 2. Until some six months ago, Ovadia was Sonol's vice president marketing. Anturg had already given notification of his intention to resign when Sonol signed its merger agreement with Dor Alon. He said he would do so once the agreement became operational. However, after the agreement was nullified by the Supreme Court, he decided to postpone his departure from the company to give Sonol time to adjust to the court's ruling. Sonol enjoyed tremendous growth under Anturg's leadership.
PORT AUTHORITY Technologies (formerly Vidius), has announced the appointment of Ron Divius as the company's vice president global sales. He previously held a similar position with Juniper, and for 23 years before that held various executive sales positions with companies and organizations specializing in information technology. Port Authority, which controls the communication of outbound sensitive information via e-mail, thus preventing unauthorized access, several months ago conducted a successful capital recruitment of $13.4 million.
BANK HAPOALIM has announced the appointment to its board of directors of Prof. Amir Barnea of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Barnea has been associated with Israel's banking developments for several years, and has served for a number of terms on the advisory committee of the Supervisor of Banks. He has resigned from the advisory committee in light of his appointment to Poalim's board of directors.
Chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) Professor Sir David Tweedie, and Peter Holgate, senior technical partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, were guests of honor at a cocktail reception hosted in her Tel Aviv apartment by Janet Rogan, Deputy Head of Mission and Consul General at the British Embassy, in conjunction with UK Trade & Investment. The reception was held in advance of a day-long conference on "The transition to international accounting standards in 2008." The conference was sponsored by the Israel Securities Authority, the Israel Accounting Standards Board and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Israel. Among those present were Adv. Michael Fox of Herzog, Fox, and Neeman; Moshe Tery, chairman of the Israel Securities Authority; and CPA Shlomo Ziv of BDO Ziv Haft.
In her address to her guests, Rogan noted that Israeli accounting and legal procedures were rooted in British tradition, regulation and belief in the rule of law.
Touted by "Business Week" and "The Guardian" as "the most powerful accountant on the planet" Sir David's presence in Israel was taken as a major vote of confidence in Israel's long-term economic stability. Asked about the timing of his visit, and whether he had any fears about visiting Israel during wartime, Sir David said the prospect of missiles was far less daunting than facing the conference's 800 participants.
The conference discussed the process currently underway in 100 countries around the committed to adopting IASB's unified accounting and financial reporting procedures.
CONTROVERSIAL BROADCASTER Gabi Gazit has taken a somewhat cynical attitude to the manner in which commercial enterprises have rushed to help the people of the North in so many different ways. Noting the extent to which the economic situation of people in the North has deteriorated over the past three weeks, Gazit has wondered out loud on air whether everyone who is so sympathetic while the Katyushas keep falling will continue this generosity of mind and spirit after the cease-fire, or whether they will suddenly clamp down on people who are in arrears of payments and virtually force them into insolvency. If this happens, all the regular non-profit organizations, as well as the ad-hoc groups that have sprung up in response to needs, will have their work cut out for a very long time to come as increasing numbers of northern residents join the ranks of those living beneath the poverty line.
MEANWHILE, THERE are commercial companies that have been entrenched in the North for decades such as Strauss Elite, the Strauss part of which started out as Strauss Dairies in Nahariya in 1936. For the duration of the war, members of the Strauss family headed by Strauss-Elite chairwoman Ofra Strauss and her father Michael Strauss, who chaired the company before she did, toured all their facilities in the North to thank loyal employees who keep coming to work while the Katyushas are falling. In one television interview, Michael Strauss said that under the circumstances he could not stay away - he felt that he had to be with the employees because they were part of his extended family, and it was important for them to know that he cared. In another television interview, Ofra Strauss said Strauss-Elite production plants were vulnerable in the South, as well as the North, of the country. They were standing in the way of Katyusha rockets in the North and Kassam rockets in the South. Nonetheless, workers were going about their jobs as if there was nothing untoward.
CHEFA HAS dispatched food parcels to elderly people confined to bomb shelters, has co-hosted children from the confrontation line in youth villages and also has donated food to children who are now in summer camps in the center of the country. Sleep Systems general manager Haim Herman has donated 35 mattresses to people in bomb shelters, and Pelephone has cleaned up some 20 bomb shelters in Ma'alot, has distributed new mattresses, toys and games in Safed and has distributed food and water to infants in shelters throughout the North. Pelephone general manager Gil Sharon says that this is the least his company can do to ease the burden of the people in the North. Meanwhile, Leumi Bank has not forgotten the people in the South. Accompanied by senior staff, Leumi operations manager Yitzhak Malach, together with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal distributed 40 computers to children whose homes were damaged by Kassam rockets during the past year. The computers included Windows, as well as programs for computer games.