Housing & Construction Moves Forward With Reorganization

There it squats, with a For Sale sign hung around its neck, and the buyers aren't lining up. But Housing & Construction's management has evidently decided not to wait. It is reorganizing the company, from head to toe, closing down or selling units operating in the red, and laying off hundreds of people.

H&C has lost about NIS 80 million over three years, showing how badly it needs to restructure. Originally it had planned its reorganization to commence after the workers sold their share in the controlling interest.

When Uri Shani took over as CEO, he began working on a plan to rehabilitate the company, which is controlled by Arison Holdings. "The group's aim is to become profitable in 2006," Shani says.

Management will be handled by a single group of people, eradicating overlap. The legal, computerization and wages departments will be consolidated into a single unit for management purposes.

H&C will slash its 2,000-strong workforce by 10 percent, either dismissing the unlucky 200 or transferring some of them by selling some of the company's units.

H&C went public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in 1998 and has provided 17 percent returns over the last five years. The capital market blames bad management for its woes, partly because the workers are too involved in the company and because the Arison group, which owns the controlling interest, hasn't tightened the reins.

H&C also lost money hand over fist on subsidiary Solel Boneh, which it delisted in 2004 after it lost more than half a billion shekels over a few years.

Yet H&C is considered to have enormous potential. It has tremendous land reserves, most of which are in prime locations. It also owns Shikun Ovdim, one of the biggest construction companies in the land, and Solel Boneh's overseas operations have been profitable. In fact, Solel Boneh plans to expand its business overseas, through a subsidiary, with a particular eye on East Europe.

Solel Boneh has already been restructuring, and the process will continue. Starting now, its residential housing division will build exclusively for Shikun Ovdim. Solel Boneh will cease to initiate projects and will focus on its strength in infrastructure projects, in anticipation of heavy government investment in infrastructures.