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(photo credit: Courtesy)
One of the latest business trends in Israel is best exemplified by IDB's new business slogan, "Going Global. " Most of the major Israeli business leaders have increased their activities overseas as a way to diversify their holdings. Lately, it seems in every corner of the world from Brazil to India to Eastern Europe to Las Vegas, there is an Israeli doing business.
Over the next few issues, the Diplomatic Post will profile the players that every diplomat worth his salt needs to know. This month, we feature Nochi Dankner.
Nochi Dankner - An umbrella to thrive under
Almost since the day that Nochi Dankner completed the acquisition of IDB Holdings in May of 2003 for less than a billion dollars, he has dominated the Israeli economy. Business Data Israel reported that in 2006 Dankner's companies controlled more than NIS 43 billion in revenue. This was up 15 percent from a year earlier.
The 12 major companies that currently make up IDB encompass all aspects of the Israeli economy. They include Clal Insurance, with 32 billion dollars under management, Cellcom - the largest mobile phone company in Israel, Netvision internet provider, the Supersol supermarket chain that provides food for 38% of the Israeli population, Golf apparel stores, Makhteshim Agan - the largest generic agrochemical producer in the world, and the Property and Building real estate company,.
These companies have thrived under Dankner's umbrella. For the first half of 2007, all of the companies announced favorable earnings compared with the prior year. Netvision, Supersol, Koor and Clal insurance reported more than a 100% increase in net profits for the period. Very few other conglomerates, even internationally, could boast the same kind of performance.
With each operating company having superior management in place, Dankner has now been able to plot IDB's next strategic moves. Nochi watchers, those that chronicle his every move, have noticed that for the last six months his companies have been raising capital and lengthening the maturities of the debt on their books.
As far back as December 2006, Dankner expressed his concern about the easy credit and binge spending of the American consumer. He predicted that the market would decline precipitously in reaction, and IDB began raising capital so that he would able to buy when the right opportunities represented themselves.
This dovetails perfectly with IDB's new strategy, Going Global. As a prudent manager, Nochi Dankner understood that he needed to expand his holdings internationally to diversify the risk. The brokerage firm Psagot Ofek estimated that 21% of IDB's revenues presently are generated abroad.
For example, chemical producer Makhteshim Agan's sells its crop protection products to 100 different countries and receives 95% of its 2 billion dollars in revenues internationally. IDB holds an 8% stake in Brazilian telecommunications provider, GVT.
However, IDB's main push internationally so far has been through real estate. It was only natural that the company's first efforts would be in India. Nochi has visited the subcontinent at least once a year for the past 15 years to trek through the mountains. He has met with the Dalai Lama as well as many ministers in the Indian Government, including the Minister of Finance Palaniappan Chidambram. In a joint venture with Electra, IDB is building commercial and office space, as well as a residential development in Hyderabad, Chennai and Mysor.
Property and Building, an IDB subsidiary, has real estate developments in the United States, England, Wales, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, and Switzerland.
But the biggest buzz is reserved for IDB's recently completed acquisition, in conjunction with fellow Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva, of the last parcel of land remaining on Las Vegas' famous Strip. When completed, their hotel/casino is expected to have 3,500 rooms, a shopping mall, and adjacent luxury apartments. The final tab for this project is estimated to be 5-7 billion dollars. In addition, IDB Development is building four residential towers and a commercial center in the upscale Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin.
Dankner is not finished looking overseas. With the recent decline in financial stocks, Dankner has indicated that it soon may be a good time to scoop up financial companies in the fields of insurance, brokerage, and banking all over the world. The first purchase was a Pennsylvania company called Guard Insurance. The company sells workers compensation insurance through its 500 agents. Last year's premiums were 200 million dollars.
At the end of June, just before the floor fell out of the market, Clal Finance floated an American investment company, Titanium Asset Management, on the AIM exchange in London. The plan is for Titanium to acquire or merge with asset management companies of banks, trust or brokerage companies, investment consultancies, or mutual funds. Analysts predict that Titanium will eventually manage 20 billion dollars in assets.
But Dankner's interests go beyond consumer markets. IDB also has a presence in the field of biotechnology. Given Imaging, a pioneer in the field of capsule endoscopy, has redefined the diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders. The Pillcam, which is the size of a multi-vitamin, is quipped with miniature cameras. Given Imaging's marketing partner in the United States is a division of Johnson and Johnson.
As befitting IDB's place in Israel, Nochi Dankner has stepped up his philanthropic commitments. After the Second Lebanon War, IDB donated more than NIS 100 million to the citizens of the north and south of Israel, and he is now also turning his attention to Kassam-stricken Sderot. Other charitable donations are in the fields of health, education, culture, and sport.
Without doubt, Nochi Dankner, the oracle from Tel Aviv, will soon be taking his place in the galaxy of international business stars like Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, and Richard Branson.