Google Founder Plans R&D Center in Israel

DAVOS, Switzerland - Google "is in the process of establishing an R&D center in Israel," Sergey Brin, a founder of the Internet search titan, told Haaretz during the World Economic Forum here.

Brin and co-founder Larry Page were among the more visible participants at the economic conference. Both have a solid connection with Israeli entrepreneurs in the Internet field.

A Google executive told Haaretz that the company had recently recruited a large number of academics, engineers, mathematicians, statisticians and economists for additional development of the company's search engine algorithm and its smart ad systems on the Net. There is still a shortage of quality personnel for developing analytic tools and predicting the massive volume of information accumulated on the search engine.

Google currently employs 4,183 workers in eight research and development centers worldwide. Four centers are in the U.S. - two in California, one in New York and one in Washington. The other four are located in Japan, Switzerland, India and China. The Chinese center opened just a few months ago. At the time the Internet was full of rumors that Google was about to open an R&D center in Poland, but it was never approved.

Last summer, Google decided to establish a local marketing and sales branch in Israel to bolster its advertising revenues in the Israel market. Google hired Meir Brand to head its Israel office, choosing a former Microsoft executive just as it had done in China.

Less than 18 months after its well-publicized IPO in August, 2004, Google trades on Nasdaq at a market cap of over $128 billion. Its revenue for the first three quarters of 2005 stood at $4.2 billion, and its net profit reached $1 billion.

Just for comparison, the search engine company netted $400 million on $3.1 billion in revenues for all of 2004. Its skyrocketing share price put its company value on a par with veteran computer giant IBM.

Google is the most popular search engine among web surfers in Israel. Google recently acquired 55 percent of AOL shares in exchange for $1 billion.

Galia Yemini contributed to this report.