Israelis are increasing their investments in the UK, topping Russia, Hong Kong, Greece and South Africa in the number of companies setting up operations there, according to a study by UK Trade & Investment for 2006/2007. The news, comes against the backdrop of recent threats from UNISON, the UK's largest trade union and UCU, the university lecturers' union, to boycott Israel for occupying Palestinian land.
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"For the fourth consecutive year, the UK has attracted a record number of investment successes, maintaining its position as the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Europe and second only to the US world-wide," said Rt. Hon. John Hutton MP, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
According to the annual investment report published by UK Trade & Investment, 12 Israeli companies set up operations in the UK, creating 147 new jobs in 2006/2007.
The report added that Israel was the UK's 29th largest export market and was becoming increasingly attractive to UK businesses. Companies including HSBC, British Gas and Rolls Royce invested $13.2 billion in Israel last year, up from $5.6b. in 2005.
In 2006/2007, the UK recorded its highest number of inward investment projects to date, which rose 17 percent from 1,220 projects to 1,431, of which 600 were new projects and 334 were expansions by existing investors.
Mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures accounted for 497 of the total number; the US was the source of the largest number of investment projects, which rose by 21%.
The news of growing Israeli interest in doing business in the UK comes even as UNISON, Britain's largest labor union with 1.6 million members, voted at the end of last month to impose sanctions on Israeli companies, including boycotting manufactured products, cutting ties with businesses and ending investments in Israeli pension funds as a response to the "continued occupation of the West Bank."
Also last month, the Israel - Britain Chamber of Commerce and Business Links for Israel had to cancel and postpone indefinitely the seminar "Putting Your Business in the UK," because of a lack of a sufficient number of participants.
The seminar was tailored to provide practical support for small- and medium-sized enterprises to generate growth through overseas partners in the UK.
"We decided to postpone the conference as we were not happy with the registration of participants," said Lennie Judes, chairman of the Israel - Britain Chamber of Commerce. "The timing of the conference was very close to the announcements of the boycott threats but it is not clear whether timing of the events was the reason for the insufficient number of participants."