Fishman to Channel 2: Lost $400 Million on Turkish Lira Speculation

Real estate baron questioned at the ISA today about role of publicly traded companies in the losses

Businessman Eliezer Fishman was questioned yesterday and again today by the Israel Securities Authority over the manner in which publicly traded companies he controls reported their gamble on the Turkish lira. The companies in question are Darban Hashkaot (TASE: DRBN) and Alliance Tire Company (TASE: ALIN).

Upon leaving the ISA, he told Channel 2 newswoman Keren Marziano that his losses on the lira amounted to $400 million. Asked how a man of his status felt at the events, Fishman said that it was proper for everybody to be treated equally, "A questioning is not tantamount to charges."

He refused to comment on his meeting at the ISA, though, saying he had been asked not to comment and therefore, would not. Fishman did say that he has not been summoned for further questioning.

Fishman also said that he does not believe he did anything wrong, and acted undismayed by the turn of events: "So my bag of sunflower seeds is smaller," he quipped.

He also corrected the correspondent: "This was not a gamble, it was an investment," and repeated a vow to indemnify shareholders.

The issues discussed today may have been whether Alliance gave the Turkish lira speculation sufficient disclosure in its financial statements, and whether Darban erred in not mentioning its exposure in a prospectus to issue bonds a few months ago.

Fishman invested personally and via the two companies in the Turkish lira, which for years had been stable and which had offered high interest rates to boot. In May, however, the lira plunged in value, causing Alliance losses of $11 million, and Darban losses of about NIS 11 million.

Estimates as to his personal and corporate losses had ranged from NIS 1.5 billion to NIS 3 billion, in either case making it one of the worst fiascos in Israeli history from currency speculation.

Today was the first direct estimate by Fishman gimself of his losses. Marziano commented that it was "inconceivable" to lose so much, to which Fishman replied that he was the one who had lost it, not her, and to him it was conceivable.