By Avi Shmoul

The Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group plans to establish a $175 million Israeli venture capital fund for investing in local hi-tech firms. The FBR fund will cooperate with the Infinity fund, managed by the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-traded Clal group, to promote Israeli hi-tech companies in the United States. The fund will also provide services to facilitate their "soft landing" in America.

FBR, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia and valued at around $250 million, is a holding company for investment banking, institutional brokerage, venture capital and other asset management products and services.

The new fund plans to specialize in hi-tech ventures in the telecommunications field that are seeking to establish a base in the Washington D.C. area.

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The group's chairman and co-CEO, Emanuel J. Friedman, spoke about plans for the new VC fund during a visit to Israel last week with a U.S. delegation of 20 leading hi-tech executives. FBR has "significant ties with Israel," Friedman said.

Last week members of the FBR delegation met with representatives of Israel hi-tech firms in Haifa.

"Despite the slowdown and the complicated situation here, Israel is considered one of the leading powers in the hi-tech field, so it is natural that we are interested in checking out business opportunities here," said one of the members of the U.S. delegation, Mark Dorf, of American Media Services.

"If in the past there was an attitude of 'What can I provide companies from Israel,' today American companies relate to Israeli companies as potential partners," another member of the delegation commented.