American investor Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest people, says he would like to invest more in Israel.
"We are always interested in more investments in Israel. We will be happy to acquire a large and independent company in Israel, or some small companies - what I call mergers into the existing framework and I think we will do both," said Buffett said in a video interview screened on Tuesday at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor social economic conference at Airport City.
More than four years ago, Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. acquired 80% of Israeli company Iscar Ltd. for $4 billion. Iscar Metalworking Companies (IMC) is an industry leader in the metal cutting tools business, owned by the Stef Wertheimer family with operations worldwide. Buffett later said that purchasing Iscar was a “dream investment.”
Now, Buffett is enthusiastic about possibly investing more in Israel. “Our company CTB, which deals in agricultural equipment, bought two small companies in Israel that succeeded well and we have a company TTI that I think did a small acquisition in Israel,” he said. “I loved the place. I spent some days there three years ago and enjoyed it very much, I managed to see almost all the country and I received a wonderful welcome from everyone.”
He added that he believes that Israel has a sustainable advantage in the global competitive market place. “If you are looking for brains - stop in Israel, there is no need to go further. If you go to the Middle East to look for oil, then skip Israel. In my opinion, Israel as a state has proven that it has an exceptional amount of brains and energy and in my eyes it works.”
Buffett believes that a country’s success is dependent on government and business working together in cooperation. “Sometimes this may be a strange partnership, but [government and business] are part of the same family. That does not mean that the two brothers always get on well with each other. But they have a common goal. No state will succeed if it does not cultivate a climate in which businesses thrive, and businesses will not flourish in a country where the government is not stable, progressive and has a vision.”
“I see the same situation in the U.S. as in Israel,” added Buffett. “I think it is important that businesses and governments understand each other. They will disagree, but ultimately the government will not prosper without business, and businesses will not thrive if the government is not adequate... I do not know the internal situation in Israel, but I do not think [Israel] would not have gotten to where it is today if there had been disputes between government and business.”
Referring to his investment in Iscar, Buffett stressed that he is “more than satisfied” with it. “If you have more companies like Iscar, call me.”
Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) rose on Wednesday. The Tel Aviv 25 Index rose 1.4% to 1,255.52 points, the Tel Aviv 100 Index rose 1.4% to 1,157.64 points, and the Tel-Tech Index rose 0.95% to 230.05 points. The Tel Aviv 25 Index closed at a new record high. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Israel's economy is forecast to grow at least 4 percent in 2010 and at a similar pace in 2011.