Citibank seeks TASE membership [pg.16]

Citibank has applied for membership on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, a move that would allow it to buy and sell shares on the exchange directly on behalf of its clients. "This is a positive sign that there is a growing interest amongst foreign investors to invest in the Tel Aviv market," a spokesman for the TASE said Thursday. Citibank's request requires approval from the TASE's the board of directors. Upon approval, Citibank would become the fourth international bank to gain membership in Tel Aviv, following UBS AB, Deutsche Bank AG and, most recently, HSBC Plc. It also would become the 30th member, both local and foreign, of the exchange. Citigroup, which handles approximately 200 million customer accounts valued at around $55 billion, has until now bought and sold shares in Israel for its clients through a third party. "Our membership on the TASE is another step in Citibank's expanding activities in Israel," said Gus Felix, CEO of Citibank Israel. "Our clients from around the world are already amongst the most prominent investors in the Israeli capital markets and we intend to strengthen this trend with the membership." Foreign investment in the TASE has been on the rise in light of stronger political, economic and business conditions in Israel, and last year reached an all-time high of NIS 2b. The TASE has embarked on a strategy to ease foreign trading and enhance its position in global markets. Earlier this year, the exchange said it was working on a cross-membership agreement with Euronext NV, operator of the Paris bourse, to allow foreigners to trade Israeli shares through the GL electronic trading platform.