Israel Corp. Chair Reported Considering Emigration

Idan Ofer is considering resigning from the Israel Corporation, leaving the country and settling in Europe, according to sources in the business sector and others close to the Ofer Brothers group. The sources say he is likely to move to Switzerland, although the possibility exists he will choose to reside in Britain.

Israel Corporation chair Idan Ofer denied he plans to leave Israel or the company, and said that he travels to Switzerland every three weeks for reasons unrelated to changing his country of residence.

According to the sources, Ofer's possible departure has been discussed at the Israel Corporation for several months, and that the matter might be delayed. Should Ofer leave, CEO Yossi Rosen is considered the likely choice to be appointed chair in his stead, while recently appointed Deputy CEO Gilad Shavit would take over as CEO.

Shavit has been highly regarded by Ofer in recent years, during which time he served as CEO of communications subsidiary KOL1. It was Shavit who kept the Israel Corporation from investing in the cellular sector before the technology bubble burst, while other Shavit-instigated activities have led to profits.

Ofer associates said recently they would not be surprised if he left Israel, in light of the state's actions toward his businesses. They said Idan's father, Sammy Ofer, has expressed even sharper criticism of the state's behavior.

Israel Corporation is in partnership with the state in soon-to-be-privatized Oil Refineries, and was sharply criticized for the relatively low price it paid for the state stake in shipping company Zim. The state has changed the conditions of the Oil Refineries a number of times in recent years, vacillating between plans to split it into two companies and plans to sell it as a single unit.

Israel Corporation has the tenth highest market capitalization on the Tel Aviv exchange, trading at NIS 7.6 billion. The stock has climbed 270 percent since mid-2003. The Ofer family's holding in the company is currently valued at about $1 billion, more than twice what they paid for it in 1999.

The company's three principal holdings are Israel Chemicals - which itself trades at NIS 14.8 billion, Zim and a 26 percent stake in Oil Refineries. The company's most problematic holding is a stake in financially-troubled chip maker Tower Semiconductors.