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The 200 top managers of publicly traded companies together earned NIS 500 million last year, according to the companies' 2003 financial statements - an average salary of NIS 2.5 million a year, or NIS 208,000 a month. The top 100 earned NIS 338 million.

Top of the list was Haim Katzman, the chairman and controlling shareholder of Gazit Globe, a real estate investment company, who was paid NIS 15.4 million last year (NIS 1.28 million a month). Katzman knocked off 2002's star earner, Yaakov Barzilai of Fidelity, which last year withdrew from the stock exchange, leaving the public no wiser about its payroll.

Second came Ilan Leviteh, former CEO of the agricultural chemicals firm Makhteshim Agan, whose cost of wages rose 249 percent in the past year to NIS 949,000 a month. Shlomo Piotrkowsky, former chairman of First International Bank of Israel cost his employers NIS 719,000 a month last year (an increase of 788 percent), while Ilan Ben-Dov went easy on Suny Electronics, as his monthly wage cost of NIS 712,000 was 8 percent less than in 2002.

Among the top 100 were only two women, Dalia Lev at the 26th spot - the former joint CEO of IDB Development cost her company NIS 300,000 a month until she left, following Nochi Dankner's takeover - and Galia Maor, CEO of Bank Leumi, whose employer registered a monthly cost of NIS 251,000, up from NIS 225,000 a year earlier.

A quarter of those in the top 100 were also controlling shareholders of the company that employed them at such attractive salaries. The list also reflected the turnaround in the local capital market, with several on the list leaving their old employers, many going on to pastures new, while those who stayed put often enjoyed a satisfying boost in their remuneration packages. Among these was Meir Shamir at number 19. The chairman and CEO of Mivtach Shamir Holdings certainly benefited from the recovery of the holding company's stakes in Scitex and Gilat Satellite and the successful flotation of Lipman on the Nasdaq, all of which helped bring his salary to rise 341 percent last year, to a monthly cost of NIS 331,000.

Success helps, but apparently it isn't essential. Both Roi Gil and Eitan Eldar, managers and controlling shareholders of Gibor Sport are in the top 200, with monthly wage costs of NIS 94,000 each, despite the company's financial straits. Gibor Sport made losses of NIS 147 million in 2003.

Average wage rises

Haim Bior adds: The average gross wage in the economy in January rose to NIS 7,603, some 6 percent up on the average pay for salaried workers in January 2003.

According to figures released Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the top earners on average were, as usual, staffers at the state monopoly Israel Electric Corporation, whose average wage stood at NIS 17,297 per month, some 2.3 times the national average wage.

Electricity workers were followed by those in public administration - at NIS 16,290 a month - and those in banking, insurance and finance, with NIS 12,637. At the other end of the scale, workers in agriculture earned NIS 4,569 before tax and those in catering and accommodation at NIS 3,533. Registered foreign workers were paid an average grow wage of NIS 3,891 in January 2004. In total, some 63,100 foreign workers were legally registered for employment in Israel, out of a total number of people working in the economy of 2.306 million. Some 66.4 percent earned above average wages.