Roni Yitzhaki, one of the more low-profile businessmen in Israel, certainly timed his entry into commodities well. Three years ago he bought 2 million dunams of wheat fields in southwest Russia, on the border with Ukraine. While the scope of his wheat business remains unknown, the soaring price of grain in world markets has boosted his business to the point that he's planning to float the company in Russia at a company valuation of $750 million.
Despite the grim mood in the international marketplace, it's also true that the price of wheat has doubled in the last year. None other than Merrill Lynch is leading Yitzhaki's offering, which should hit the Moscow exchange in a matter of months.
Yitzhaki is one of Israel's bigger entrepreneurs, but he steers clear of the media spotlight. The Yitzhaki family owns a great deal of land near Be'er Yaakov, which is named after his father Yaakov Yitzhaki. The son's personal fortune was made mainly in construction. Local market sources estimate that his liquid worth is in the billions of shekels, while his real assets are estimated to be worth $300 million.
Most of the Yitzhaki group's activities are private, hence the lack of information on their value. Among the projects in which Yitzhaki owns shares are the Design Center mall and Treetops neighborhood (Tzamarot) in Herzliya.
Yitzhaki also owns an 84% interest in the Tel Aviv-listed company Rodemco, which trades in animal feed, grains and wheat and is worth NIS 49 million.
One of Yitzhaki's associates is Shimon Weintraub, a real estate investor himself and Yitzhaki's partner in QXL, which runs an auctions site on the Web. The two made a killing on Internet gambling sites. QXL was sold in December for $1.9 billion to Naspers, a subsidiary of a South African media company, and changed its name to Tradus. Weintraub and Yitzhaki made more than 1,000% on their investment.
The Yitzhaki group declined to comment for this report.
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