There’s more to Israel than start-ups

By Hugo Bieber, April 4, 2014
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Hugo Bieber, Dan Gillerman and Sir Trevor (Photo: Blake Ezra)

Hugo Bieber, Dan Gillerman and Sir Trevor (Photo: Blake Ezra)

There are a wealth of opportunities in Israel and these need to be brought to the attention of British investors.

Israeli companies go far beyond “start-ups” and are now looking to grow.

That is why UK Israel Business, which prides itself on building trade links between the two countries, ran the first-ever Israel Private Equity Opportunity Summit in London last month.

As is often the case with Israel, our remit stretched into assuring investors that political tensions in the region have little effect on day-to-day business.

Despite regional instabilities, Israel’s economy has thrived, particularly during the recent economic downturn.

Around 120 British investors from private equity funds and family offices, each with an ability to invest at least $20 million into a deal, attended the event.

A new $500 million fund, committed to mid-market deals in Israel, was announced by summit panellist and chief investment officer at Apax Partners, Nico Hansen.

This follows Apax’s track record investing in Israeli buy-out opportunities of over $500 million each, such as Bezeq, Tnuva and Psagot.

Our post-event survey suggests that more deals are forthcoming.

All attendees surveyed said they would explore more opportunities in Israel as a direct result of attending the summit.

Dan Gillerman, senior adviser to the Blackstone Group, said his global investment firm was looking at “opportunities” in Israel.

Leon Blitz, managing partner at Grovepoint Capital, said his investment firm also has Israeli deals “in the pipeline”.

The result is particularly notable given that we were able to target investors beyond the British Jewish community and approached funds that have not previously considered investing in Israel.

Indeed, one of my primary goals for our organisation has been to open up opportunities to the wider community.

Tim Hames, director general of the BVCA, which represents private equity and venture capital firms in the UK, told attendees that he wanted investors to “give Israel the look it deserve . . . not out of sentiment but following results”.

Hames went on to ease pre-existing concerns about Israel’s economic and geo-political situation and said he “cannot but reinforce the sense of normality”.

With such sentiments, it is important to show investors opportunities on the ground in Israel. With the passing of the Anti-Concentration Law in December, Israel’s large holding companies now have up to six years to divest either financial or non-financial assets.

This will bring a number of companies to the market that are interesting to international investors, making now the perfect time to market these opportunities.

Given the wide base of investors in London and the relative proximity to Tel Aviv, there was a clear need to educate UK Investors in the practicalities and realities of investing in Israel.

For UK private equity investors looking at Israel, there is the ability to tap into a strong and growing local market. Israel offers a stable economy with strong returns.

For Israeli companies looking at taking UK investment, British funds bring international expertise and can provide broader market access to Israeli firms, particularly in the UK and across Europe.

Further, the UK private equity industry is well established and brings a deep level of sector and operational focus to its portfolio companies.

As Israeli start-ups now seek to grow, rather than just sell-out, the international support from growth capital and private equity investors will help them on the way to becoming billion-dollar companies.

Hugo Bieber is the chief executive of UK Israel Business

Last updated: 12:54pm, April 4 2014