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Israel’s economy defies security and political odds

Straight from the Jerusalem Boardroom #138
November 25, 2009

1. Israeli youth highly motivated to serve: 73% of 18 year old recruits (in November 2009) prefer military service in combat units; number of applicants to the Golani infantry brigade was six times higher than needed; number of applicants to the Givati infantry brigade was four times higher than needed.

2. Siemens acquired Israel’s solar energy Solel for $418MN, following Siemens’ 40% acquisition of Israel’s solar company, Arava Power for $15MN (Globes business daily, Oct. 16, 2009). Sigma Designs acquired Israel’s CopperGate Telecommunications for $200MN (Globes, Oct. 1). Britain’s M86 acquired Israel’s Finjan for $35MN (Globes, Nov. 4).

3. Fitch International Credit Rating Agency has joined Moody’s (A1 stable) and Standard & Poor (A stable), maintaining Israel’s long-term foreign exchange and local currency credit rating at A and A+ respectively. Israel is one of the very few countries which have maintained its credit rating during the economic crisis of the last two years. According to Fitch, Israel’s stable banking sector, absence of “bubbles,” hawkish budget-deficit (curbing government spending) policy and stability of the high tech and services sectors have produced unprecedented current accounts surplus and foreign exchange reserves (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 6, Yedioth Achronot, Nov. 8). A 7%-13% rise in hiring has been recorded by Israel’s high tech sector during 2009′s third quarter (Globes, Oct. 26).

4. “[Microsoft's CEO], Steve Ballmer calls Microsoft as much an Israeli company as an American company, because of the importance of its Israeli technologies. Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, eBay – says one of eBay’s executives – the best kept secret is that we all live and die by the work of our Israeli teams…John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO, has bought nine Israeli start-ups… Such economic dynamism has occurred in the face of war, internal strife and rising animosity from other nations. During the six years following the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, Israel suffered one of its worst periods of terrorist attacks and fought a second Lebanese War, and yet its share of the global venture capital market did not drop – it doubled from 15% to 31%… Israel, a tiny nation of immigrants torn by war, has managed to become the first technology nation…” (James Glassman, Exec. Dir. Of the G.W. Bush Institute, Wall St. Journal, Nov. 23, 2009 book review of Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle).

5. HP expands it R&D operations in Israel, hiring 100 persons during the next two years, in addition to its current 5,000 employees (Globes Business daily, Nov. 25). Microsoft’s newest anti-virus software, Microsoft Security Essentials, was developed in Microsoft’s R&D center in Israel (Globes, Oct. 1).

6. Israel has been chosen to succeed Germany in heading the largest R&D network in the world, the “Eureka Initiative,” a pan-European, inter-governmental initiative that supports European innovation and oversees 1.5BN British Pound investments annually. Israeli companies have participated in 40 – out of 300 – Eureka projects launched in 2008. Eureka operates like the highly successful US-Israel Bi-National Industrial R&D (BIRD) Foundation (Israel 21c, July 27).

7. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has recognized Israel as one of the fifteen international centers (countries) for the search and testing of patents. Thus, global innovators will be able to apply – in Israel – to patent testing and approval, which will be recognized internationally (Ynet, Sept. 30).

8. The Dutch Forbion Capital Partners – joined by Alice Ventures, Vitalife, Kreos Capital and IHCV – led an $18.5MN round by Israel’s NiTi Surgical Solutions (Globes, Aug. 12). Apropos IT, Dolphin Equity Partners, Inter-Atlantic Group and Hyperion Partners invested $17MN in a 3rd round by Israel’s SeaPass (Globes, Nov. 5). Yorkville Advisors Global extended a $15MN line of credit to Israel’s Mazor (Globes, Sept. 4). USVP led a $12MN round by Israel’s water-recycling BPT (Globes, Aug. 31). Japanese electrical giants led a $12MN 2nd round of private placement by Israel’s Plurality (Globes, Nov. 19). Dupont Capital, Saints Capital, Carlisle, Adams Street Partners, Deutsche Telecom (T-Venture) and Argonaut participated in a $10MN round of private placement by Israel’s Actelis (Globes Sept. 9). Trilogy Partners led a $9/4MN round by Israel’s Crescendo Networks (Globes, Aug. 14). The US-based Volcano Capital and Wheatley partners led an $8MN round by Israel’s VisionSense (Oct. 19). Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Index Ventures invested $8MN in Israel’s NovoCure (Oct. 1). India’s Kushla Ventures and the Silicon Valley-based Kleiner Perkins led a $7MN round by Israel’s eASIC (Globes, Nov. 5). General Catalyst, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures invested $6MN in Israel’s Boxee (Globes, Aug. 14). Benchmark Capital and Tamares invested $5MN in a 2nd round by Israel’s Panaya (Globes, Aug. 6). 7Health Ventures led a $5MN round by Israel’s Activiews (Globes, Sept. 15). Benchmark Capital leads a $3MN 2nd round by Israel’s Zlango (Globes, Nov. 19).

9. Israel defense industries’ sales surged 20% in 2008, compared with 2007. The total for 2008 was $9.8BN, compared with$4.7BN in 2003. Total exports was $7BN in 2008, compared with $3.2BN in 2003.

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