Buffet: We're here for the long haul

"If it gives Israel a shot in the arm, that's great," he tells Post.

buffett wertheimer 298.8 (photo credit: AP)
buffett wertheimer 298.8
(photo credit: AP)
While strategists continued to project good things for Israel Tuesday in the wake of Warren Buffett's $4 billion investment in Iscar Ltd., the man at the center of the euphoria was thrilled to have found a place in the country. "We're going to be in Israel way beyond my lifetime," the chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview late Monday night from the company's Omaha, Nebraska headquarters. "There was enormous enthusiasm at our board meeting today," he said. Always on the lookout for good companies, the Iscar purchase was Buffett's first outside the US but the company was typical of the "old economy" companies the man known as the "Oracle of Omaha" favors. By now, most everyone following the deal that has brought renewed pride to the Israeli business community and country at large, knows that Buffett was approached with a simple letter by Iscar's chairman, Eitan Wertheimer. "It's amazing but both his character and feelings about his business and why it's special came through to me. I get a lot of letters and not many have an impact on me but this one.... We hit it off," Buffett said. "They're remarkable people and a remarkable business." Although he has no immediate plans to do so, Buffett said he may take the investment, which now stands at 80 percent, further at some point. "When we get hooked up with this sort of company and this sort of people, who knows what the potential is?" he said. He said he's also open to the possibility of further investments in other other Israeli enterprises. Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, added its praise to the deal telling clients the move was "hugely positive" for Israeli assets as it should boost both domestic and international investor confidence in the country. The expected $1 billion in tax revenue, which amounts to 0.8% of gross domestic product, that the deal was expected to generate was also extremely important, according to the firm. "On the back of this deal and the government's commitment to fiscal discipline, we now think that Israel may end the year with a balance budget. This would be a significant achievement," Merrill strategist Mehmet Simsek wrote in a research report. As for Buffett, "If this gives [the country] an extra shot in the arm, that's just great," he said.