By Gary Smith
Israel is still a good place to invest despite the economic downturn and the political situation, and London is the best conduit for such investments, was the message from a London Capital Markets Conference held yesterday by the Israel-Britain Business Council (IBBC) in Tel Aviv.
One aim of the conference was to tempt Israeli companies considering public issues to turn to London's capital market, instead of the much-hyped Nasdaq.
CEOs from BATM and XTL, two Israeli companies who have listed in London, argued in favor of the UK, not only for its proximity (breakfast in Israel, afternoon tea in London, as one speaker said) but also due to language and financial pedigree.
The chairman of the UK conference committee, Howard Shore, said Israel was the exception among emerging market economies in turning to the U.S. capital markets, when London was surely the more appropriate address.
The London exchange even has someone responsible for the Israel desk, Amira Lis-Bardichev, who reported that interest in the LSE was growing and later this month she would be hosting CFOs from 30 local companies, to explain the workings of the LSE. Reflecting this increasing interest, the LSE sent three representatives to yesterday's event.
Britain is one of Israel's major trading partners and a "great friend" according to Shore. Total trade between the two countries is expected to meet last year's total of 2.6 billion British pounds, said Amnon Dankner, chairman of the Israel-British Chamber of Commerce, which itself was impressive given the present economic climate, and the fact that bilateral trade has grown consistently for the past five years.
The lineup of conference attendees from Britain offered a feast of corporate name dropping for Israelis - Lord Young (Young Associates), Lord Stone of Blackheath, Lord Levene (of Deutsche Bank), Sir Richard Greenbury (Marks and Spencer) and Sir Victor Blank.
Boosting trade and investment opportunities between Britain and Israel, and expressing solidarity with the country were among the reasons that brought such an impressive crowd, commented those who came from the UK.
The event had also brought in representatives from the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), as well as the British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles, and Peter Mandelson, the friend of Prime Minister Tony Blair and a former cabinet minister.