Israel Salt Industries reported a 62% leap in annual net profit, to NIS 81.8 million for 2000.

The company, controlled by the Dankner family, produces salt for industry, agriculture, and domestic use. It also owns a 12% chunk of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's largest bank by market cap. The holding in the bank brought it more hay than lowly salt ever did.

The Hapoalim holding generated NIS 178 million revenues for ISI in 2000. Salt brought it a mere NIS 90 million. While Hapoalim had a good year in 2000, the salt business suffered. Salt-related revenues dipped by 7% in 2000 compared with 1999, while earnings related to Bank Hapoalim rose by 19%.

For the fourth quarter, salt-related revenues shrunk by 12% against the parallel to NIS 22.4 million. Revenues from Bank Hapoalim jumped 27% to NIS 47 million in the quarter.

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Net profit for the quarter was mainly affected by the earnings of Bank Hapoalim, and rose to NIS 22.7 million, compared with NIS 11.8 million earnings in the same quarter in 1999.

ISI's salt revenues are hurting on two fronts: at home and abroad. Sales prices in Israel eroded by 3% in 2000. The domestic market accounts for 90% ISI's salt sales.

But as for the other 10%, annual revenues from exported salt dived by 33% in 2000 due to intensifying competition in the international market and to political problems in some of ISI's markets.