Sharing the Buffett bonanza
If you bought Tel Aviv stocks on Thursday and sold dollars for shekels on Friday, and cash in gains today, you win. But if you didn't, it isn't too late to cash in on the Buffett bonanza.
Warren Buffett's acquisition of an 80% interest in Iscar is a mega-event in terms of Israeli economics. It strengthens the new government, brings the state kitty a billion dollars in taxes, and brings in $3 billion that will turn into shekels, over time.
But the main point is that Buffett signaled two main things: direction, and price.
What the world's most influential investor was effectively saying, is that Israel is a good place for investments and that prices aren't too high, at least not yet. That is heartening news for the business sector as a whole, and publicly traded companies in particular - not to mention privately held companies that want to go public.
Lately more and more experts have been fretting that share prices in Israel had climbed too high. Investors were starting to worry about bubbles but if Warren Buffett says otherwise, that changes things.
Not because it's Israeli
Just to clarify matters, Buffett didn't choose Iscar because it's Israeli. He didn't mark Israel on the map and tell his advisers to find something good there. He chose Iscar because of its management and qualities, and would have bought it if its base had been in Brazil.
Yet the transaction is an incomparably important show of faith in the Israeli economy. Iscar is a real sabra company, based in the Galilee. Buffett certainly wouldn't have bought Iscar if he didn't have faith in its economic surroundings and in its ability to grow.
Yesterday Israel was back in the headlines of the world news, in a new context. From now on, Israel can be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary investor from Omaha, Nebraska; with quality industry and gigantic investments.
Not a few businesses, investment funds and multinationals will be rethinking whether they've invested enough in Israeli businesses. The name is a safety net: if a deal turns sour, they can always defend themselves by saying - But Warren Buffett went there too.
Buffett is a long-term investor and the dramatic acquisition of Iscar becomes part of a long-term effort to improve Israel's economy. The deal also makes the new coalition headed by Ehud Olmert look pretty good. If Olmert manages to improve Israel's diplomatic situation as he promises, even through acting unilaterally, one could say that Israel's economic future has never looked so good.
Stock and bond prices have been rising straight for three years now as Israel's economic parameters improve. Now Warren Buffett signals that it isn't over. If you believe that more gains are ahead as the $4 billion arrives in Israel, you can calculate your risks and jump onto the bandwagon.
How? By buying shares, an apartment or some other property: if you're thinking about it, perhaps you might hesitate a bit less. If you're selling, you might demand a higher price, or wait. Maybe you'd prefer to open a new business. We may all soon be in a position to demand a raise.
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