Arison Describes Lofty New Strategy

And cold practicality for Hapoalim.

"We believe in taking a leading responsibility for change. With practical, meaningful action we will create a new reality in which we will all play a role in ensuring human existence. We have decided to be in places where we can provide solutions to a large number of people. We have financial strength, but we also have value-driven aims. Our plan will create residential and business areas that exist in harmony with the environment."

This may sound like something from a victory speech by the president to be elected this November, but the person speaking is none other than the Israeli billionaire Shari Arison, seconded by her right-hand woman, Efrat Peled - the CEO of Arison Investments.

Arison and Peled met with reporters yesterday for the express purpose of presenting Arison Investments, Arison's company that controls Bank Hapoalim, Housing and Construction Holding Co. It also has other investments, such as the water initiative to be launched next week in Vienna at an investment of $100 million.

Peled reviewed the company's activities since her appointment two and a half years ago. Milestones include a massive acquisition of Bank Hapoalim shares, the purchase of Housing and Construction shares from company employees: A total of NIS 3 billion has been invested, partly paid through a NIS 2.5 billion bond issue.

Arison said, she is changing her strategy of avoiding meetings with reporters. She had previously handled her media relations through a contracted spokesman - Rani Rahav. Now she feels this strategy did not serve her purposes.

Peled, who led the discussion with Arison providing the commentary, described the global trends that Arison Investments has identified over the past two and a half years. Population density will grow, the percentage of the population living in urban centers will grow, and the middle class is expected to grow.

As a result of these trends, there will be increased demand for homes and real estate in general, and a great deal of money will flow into infrastructure. There will be heavy investment in alternative energy, renewable energy and water. Infrastructure will propel development of project financing.

Arison Investments, Peled says, is involved in all of these - finances, real estate, infrastructure, energy and water. It will focus future investments on this strategy, and will consider investments in air purification, agriculture, food and clean-energy sources, particularly for air and sea transport, she added. But the company is not involved in any concrete negotiations in these areas yet. "It could take time," she says.

"In general," Arison added, "we want to invest in areas that do people good, and of course, to see financial results for ourselves." Arison rules out investment in firms like Israel Chemicals and Agan Makhteshim, or in arms or tobacco, which are contrary to the company's principals.

How do developments at Bank Hapoalim comply with your strategy? "You have to understand that in the fields we operate in, everything is a process. It takes time," she says. "Just wait and see. Beyond that, any questions should be put to the bank's chairman, Dan Danker." She denied any plan to replace Hapoalim CEO Zvi Ziv with Efrat Peled, or anyone else.