Israeli wealth more concentrated in 2006

Families' firms earned the equivalent of 88% of the country's budget in 2006.

Nineteen families controlled 34 percent of the income of Israel's 500 leading countries in 2006, up from 18 families with control over 32% of the income in 2005, the economic research company Business Data Israel-Coface reported on Thursday. According to the latest study, companies controlled by the 19 families earned NIS 248 billion in 2006 - the equivalent of 88% of the country's budget and more than half (54%) of the business-sector domestic product, BDI said. The report additionally noted that within the 19 families, five controlled 61% of the total wealth, as opposed to 54% in 2005. "The level of concentration of companies controlling the capital in the economy has much improved since the 1970s but we are only half way," said Eyal Yanai, co-CEO of BDI Israel, presenting the findings of the BDI concentration index at conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. "The vast majority of businesses in Israel are small with much difficulty of achieving growth partly due to the inherent problem in Israel of a late payment culture." Leading the way is the Dankner family, which based on the strength of its purchase of Koor Industries, pushed the family's percentage of wealth control within the group of 19 up to 18.7% from 16.3% in 2005. Included in Dankner's stable of companies in which he has a controlling stake are I.D.B, Cellcom, Clal Finance and Insurance, ECI and Makhteshim Agan, a subsidiary of Koor. Following Dankner is the Ofer family with 12.8% (down from 13.7% in 2005) of the top 19's 2006 income. The family is led by the brothers Sammy and Yuli, who control a vast international business empire that includes industrial conglomerate Israel Corp.; Zim, Israel's largest container shipping company; and a $1b. stake in Royal Caribbean. As part of estate planning, the brothers divided the family business last year - except for a retained shared interest in Mizrahi Bank -to pave the way for smooth succession. Following the Ofers is the Tshuva family, which nearly doubled its share of wealth in the top 19 families from 5.9% in 2005 to 10.9% in 2006. Rounding out the top five is the Weissman family, which controls 10.7%, followed by the Saban family, with 7.7%, dropping from 9.1% in 2005. The BDI study did not reflect the families' actual wealth or income, but rather the extent of their control in the country's leading companies in the economy, as indicated by the total income of the companies in which the 19 families have a controlling stake. The 500 largest companies in Israel generated a combined NIS 722b. in revenues in 2006, said BDI. Sharon Wrobel contributed to this report.