Taking Stock / Welcome to 5765
5764 was the year in which four stock market years contracted into one. 5764 was the year in which the state seized control of the pension funds from the Histadrut and sold three of them to insurance companies.
l 5764 was the year in which four stock market years contracted into one. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange climbed 32 percent, more than three times the annual real yield a stock market is supposed to generate over time. It was the year in which the TASE reminded us of that old chestnut: If you want to make money on stocks, stay in the game. If you get in only when the market is warming up, you'll probably leave with your tail between your legs.
l 5764 was the year in which the state seized control of the pension funds from the Histadrut and sold three of them to insurance companies. It was the year in which it became apparent than when crisis looms, dramatic change can be instituted. It was the year in which we learned the state doesn't have to behave like an ass when selling assets.
l It was the year in which the state did nonetheless behave like an ass when selling an asset, to the benefit of the Ofer brothers, unsurprisingly. They bought Zim at a low company value of $230 million and surprise! - as every last deckhand knew, the year 2004 turned out to be a boom year for maritime haulage. In this year alone, the company sold for a mess of pottage and $230 million seems likely to make $100 million in profit.
l 5764 was the year of the insurance companies. They made tons of money from the stock market boom. They were enormously strengthened by buying the Histadrut's pension funds. They will probably buy the banks' provident and mutual funds, when the banks are forced to sell. This means that come 5765, the public's faithful representatives should be shining a strong spotlight on the insurance companies, which have a history of basing business models on the public's ignorance and gullibility.
l It was the year that began with Ehud Olmert racing like a hare to bestow gifts on the nation's mightiest telecoms barons, and ended with him reduced to a makeover, for which he decided it was time to attack structural flaws in the cellular sector. In a courageous move, he announced the cellular trio would have to reduce their incoming-call fees.
Which means that in 5675, Olmert will have to prove he can lord it over the rich and powerful as well, that his decision wasn't mere spin, that he has the spine to withstand the crushing pressure of the cellular mammoths.
l It was the year in which Teva Pharmaceuticals stock sank 20 percent within three months and investors discovered to their astonishment that its "stock" was a "stock", meaning, it can go up and it can go down.
Which means that in the year 5765, the capital market's attitude toward the generic drugs giant is going to be a lot more sober and cautious. Some of the millionaires Teva has generated are going to collect their winnings and leave the table.
l It was the year in which the brand-new attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, cleared the prime minister and his son Gilad of one reeking affair and tried to persuade the public that the prime minister's son was worthy of earning $600,000 just for surfing the Internet.
Which means that in 5765, Mazuz will have to prove he isn't living in a bubble, that he understands corruption is the real main enemy of the Israeli public, and that he can contend with it.
l It was the year in which Internet stopped being a dirty word. Most Internet companies regained profitability and Internet as a tool for business, social and consumer contacts grew rapidly.
Which means that in 5765, Internet will again begin to threaten the business models of many companies.
l The year 5764 was the year in which Nochi Dankner raised NIS 7 billion in offerings of bonds and asset sales, and Ron Lubash and Amir Kass tapped investors for half a billion dollars for their equity fund Markstone, which will be investing in established Israeli companies.
Which means that in 5765, a lot of big money will be chasing a lot of big deals.
l It was the year in which technology began raising money again, and startups again commanded handsome prices from U.S.-based multinationals. It was the year in which the gleam returned to entrepreneurial eyes, in which new technologies and startups came back into fashion.
It was the year in which it became apparent how short human memories really are.
Which has a downside: again money will be thrown at ill-conceived ventures, warping the allocation of resources and distorting pricing, too.
But there's also an upside, which is that to make it in technology, you need a lot of optimism.
l It was the year in which eight professionals with giant egos - from the Finance Ministry, the Israel Securities Authority, the Bank of Israel, the Justice Ministry and the Antitrust Authority - broke with precedent and managed to agree on a sweeping revolution of the Israel's twisted capital market and banking system.
Now as the year 5765 takes hold, the man who led the team, Joseph Bachar, says he understands that the team's work has actually just begun. He understands now that when the historians look back, it will be the result of the reform, not that lovely report they produced, that will count.
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