Arab states likely to disregard Nestle boycott [pg.17]

The Arab League's call for a boycott of Nestle products because of the Swiss food giant's Israeli activity through its 53 percent stake in Osem, is expected to be largely ignored by Arab countries. "Nestle has learned through the media that a boycott call was issued," a Nestle spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post. "The company notes that some governments in the Near East have already indicated that they will disregard it." The Lebanese government has already commented that it would ignore the call for a boycott, while Syria indicated that it would comply with the Arab League's decision. Similar calls by the Arab League Central Boycott Office against Estee Lauder, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Siemens had failed in the past. Nestle has gradually increased its holdings in Osem since it received a 1995 option for the acquisition of 10% of Osem's shares. In 1998, Nestle increased its holdings in Osem to 47% and the current 53%. Cooperation between Nestle and Osem has led to a knowledge transfer agreement in which Osem is entitled to receive assistance from Nestle for product research and development, information systems and food technology. Furthermore, the two companies have embarked on an employee exchange so that Osem can benefit from the vast experience that the Nestle managers have acquired over time. Nestle employs around 23,000 people in 51 factories and 151 sales and distribution offices in Muslim countries throughout the world. Overall, the company employs some 253,000 people from over 100 countries. Nestle has made industrial investments in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, United Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, among many other countries around the world. The company has revenue of 3.3 billion Swiss francs.