Omaha-Based Firm Buys Israeli Company for $4 Billion

The Israeli economy welcomed the acquisition of an Israel metal-cutting tools company, owned by the Wertheimer family, by billionaire Warren Buffett of Omaha, Nebraska.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:31

Buffett, owner of the investment company Berkshire Hathaway, is said to be the world's second-richest person. Over the weekend, his company purchased 80% of the Iscar Metalworking Companies (IMC) for four billion dollars, valuing IMC at $5 billion. The deal makes the Wertheimer family the wealthiest in Israel.

Iscar began some 50 years ago as a small aluminum framing company in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. Stef Wertheimer, who founded the company, and his son Eitan, the current Chairman, will continue to own 20% of the company.

IMC will continue to be managed by its current management team, including Eitan Wertheimer and President and Chief Executive Officer Yaakov Harpaz. It will remain headquartered in Tefen, in the western Galilee.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the purchase, saying it indicated worldwide confidence in the Israeli economy: "This is not just another billion-dollar deal. The fact is that [Buffett] is neither a Jew nor a Zionist; the biggest investor in the world believes in Israel's economy, and this will give us a great push and will encourage innumerable other investors."

Olmert also congratulated the Wertheimer family: "They are builders of the land, and wonderful Israelis. The father lit the wick of Zionism, and the son continued with long-range economic vision."

Meeting with some 24,000 Berkshire Hathaway stockholders at their annual meeting yesterday, Buffett said, "We are delighted to partner with the Wertheimer family and IMC's current management. A truly international business, IMC is a top performer in its industry, with exposure to European, Asian and Latin American markets, as well as significant opportunities for growth as it continues to penetrate the North American market. My partner, Charlie Munger, and I have been impressed by IMC's simple and profitable business model. With this acquisition, we have the benefit of investing in a stable business with very significant growth prospects.“

Iscar is the first business based outside the United States that Berkshire has bought into, Buffett said, though it owns several companies with overseas operations.

Eitan Wertheimer told Globes, “As a member of the Berkshire family, we'll have the benefit of a strong platform that's committed to continuing our historical success. This transaction is not only significant for our company, our customers and our employees, but also for our industry, and for the State of Israel. We are gratified by Berkshire's investment in the group, and proud of what we have achieved since Iscar's founding more than 50 years ago by my father Stef Wertheimer, who will continue to lend his vision to the group. We are looking forward to a long and profitable partnership with Berkshire Hathaway.“

Berkshire owns a diverse mix of more than 60 companies, including insurance, reinsurance, carpet, jewelry, furniture, restaurants and utility firms. It also has major investments in such companies as H&R Block, Anheuser-Busch, and Coca-Cola.