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The 25 largest Israeli companies, by market value, reported net losses of NIS 2 billion last year. This compares to the top 25 making a profit of NIS 4.4 billion in 2000. Among the blue-chips, some reported losses of hundreds of millions, while others, though managing a profit on the bottom line, saw their business struggle in what was widely viewed as a very difficult year.

The top 25, listed on the Maof index or, officially, the Tel Aviv 25 index of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, include the top five banks, the telecoms firms Bezeq and Partner Communications, the Teva pharmaceuticals giant and defense leader Elbit Systems. Holding companies such as Koor and the Israel Corp. are also in the list, as are a number of the IDB clan.

By the intermediate days of the Passover holiday, most of these companies had filed their 2001 financial statements, which showed how drastically their fortunes had turned in the past year. They would all agree that 2001 was one of the worst years in their history, and the blame was cast on the economic depression, the worsening of the security situation, the global slowdown in telecoms and technology and the poor state of both the local and international capital markets.

The holding companies fared the worst. Koor posted losses of NIS 2.53 billion, while Clal Industries, the Israel Corp., Discount Investments and IDB Development all made losses in the hundreds of millions.

In the banking world, apart from Israel Discount Bank which lost NIS 255 million in 2001, the major four banks managed a net profit for the year. However, all five saw a significant worsening of provisions for doubtful debts which halved the net profits of the five from NIS 3.8 billion in 2000 to NIS 1.9 billion in 2001. No bank distributed dividends for the year.

Some little cheer in the top 25 was brought by Teva Pharmaceuticals with a net profit of NIS 1.27 billion, markedly immune to local worries as most of its sales are overseas. Defense and food seemed well covered for the rainy day as Elbit Systems posted profits of NIS 180 million, while Osem, Super-Sol and Blue Square Israel all saw improvements in their bottom line.