Straight from the Jerusalem Boardroom #243
- According to Standard & Poor, Fitch and Moody’s – the world’s top credit rating companies – Israel and Australia are the only two Western countries whose 2019 credit rating (reflecting economic growth) is higher than it was before the global economic meltdown of 2007/2008. Currently, Israel is rated AA- by Standard & Poor, A+ by Fitch and A1 by Moody’s.
- According to the London Economist (November 5, 2019), despite short-term political uncertainty, Israel’s economic growth is sustained by a strong domestic consumption, an expansion of natural gas explorations, findings and export, and the continued dynamism of the hightech sector, which has attracted substantial foreign investment. For example, Intel announced its plan to invest $11BN in a new export-oriented semiconductor manufacturing facility in Israel [as a follow up to the 2016 acquisition of Israel’s Mobileye for $15.3BN and investment in scores of Israeli startups].
Israel’s economy features low unemployment (3.7%) and rising real wages. Exports are expected to rise despite the relative global economic slowdown, and independent of the continued appreciation of the Shekel (the strongest currency against the US dollar), but due to the initiation of natural gas exports.
GDP growth is expected to slow to 2.9% in 2020, before recovering to 3.8% in 2021 and 4% in 2022.
- The NYC-based Centerbridge Partners and Greenwich, CT-based Gallatin Point Capital acquired 32.5% of Phoenix (Israel’s 2nd largest insurance group) for $450MN (Globes Business Daily, Nov. 5, 2019). Germany’s insurance giant, Munich Re, invested $250MN in Israel’s Next Digital Insurance startup, which was founded in 2016 by entrepreneurs who in 2014 sold their previous startup, Check, to the Silicon Valley-based Intuit for $360MN (Globes, October 8). The Greenwich, CT-based General Atlantic led a $165MN investment in Israel’s Riskified, which develops software preventing fraud and verifying consumer identities (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 5). Israel has become Europe’s Silicon Valley. During the first half of 2019, German investors accounted to 30% of the number of European deals in Israel’s ecosystem, including a branch of Merck, the global pharmaceutical giant. While German investment profile is dwarfed by the USA, 60% of the leading Frankfurt Stock Exchange companies have Israeli branches, seeking Israeli technologies, surging since 2016. In 2018, German investors were 4th in the number of Israeli deals – 5% of total deals foreign investment – between the UK’s 7% and China’s 4% (Globes, August 12).
- Egypt’s Middle East News Agency reported on November 11, 2019 that Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling, the operators of Israel’s largest natural gas fields, established a $518MN joint venture with Egypt’s Dolphinus Holdings, which will pave the way for Israeli natural gas exports to Egypt (85.3BN cubic meters over 15 years), starting on January 1, 2020.
- The Greece-based Energean Oil & Gas (jointly with Israel’s Opportunity Energy Resources) published the results of its appraisal drilling in Israel’s Karish North Discovery, estimating recoverable resources of 0.9 trillion cubic feet (25 billion cubic meters) of natural gas plus 34MN barrels of light oil/condensate (natural gas liquids), in addition to 2.4 Tcf (68 BCM) and 33MN barrels of light oil/condensate discovered previously. Energean recently obtained licenses for four additional marine exploration sites. 12 more offshore drilling licenses issued to overseas operators, including Britain’s Cairn Energy and Pharos Energy.
- 600 of Israel’s 8,000 startups are focused on transportation-related solutions. Israel has become a leading global hub for smart mobility, according to David Liniado, Vice President of the Atlanta-based Cox Automotive Mobility. Cox is expanding partnership with Israeli startups, including a joint research & development center with Drive TLV, which involves Volvo, Honda and Hertz. The Paris-based Faurecia (114,000 employees in 35 countries), a world leader in automotive technology invested in Israel’s Guardknox, a cybersecurity company, reinforcing passengers’ safety and data security.
Ford is setting up an Israeli research & development center, as a follow up to the 2016 acquisition of Israel’s SAIPS, which specializes in computer vision and self-driving car learning. Intel and Nvidia established research & development centers in Israel, which develop chips for autonomous vehicles. GM founded its research & development center in Israel in 2008. BMW is about to introduce its own Israeli research & development center, as did Volkswagen in 2018. Over 20 global carmakers and suppliers are involved with Israeli research & development centers, leveraging Israel’s brain power.