Jungle Stories / The Next Mission

It's all the press' fault. Africa Israel borrowed NIS 7.5 billion from the public and then announced that it would not be able to return the money in full. But at the start of its endless motion asking the court to stay proceedings (i.e., approve the debt arrangement reached with creditors), the company blames the press.

Africa Israel didn't blame every member of the press. It specified "a central media outlet" (care to guess which?) "that conducted a public campaign" against it, arguing that the real estate company should either repay it debt or hand the controlling interest over to its creditors.

In those articles of its motion (33 to 36), the company also writes with contempt that certain people feel that getting back money from Africa Israel has become a "national mission." One might have thought it an everyday event for a corporate giant to ask to write off 40% of its debt to investors and pensioners without offering satisfactory explanations.

"People with vested interests and people who would right the world's wrongs" (guesses, anybody?) "fanned the fires and made it their stated goal to lead to the company's liquidation," Africa Israel writes.

The most interesting element of the company's motion for approval for its debt arrangement can be found in Article 65, which lists the sacrifices made by the company's leaders when the times got tough.

It turns out there's no grounds to complain of any selfishness on the part of the Africa Israel management, people who take home wages of hundreds of thousands of shekels a month. They're helping the troubled company, too, we learn: "Seeing the signs of the crisis, the company management began a sweeping efficiency process that lowered headquarters and management costs by 10% a year (NIS 5 million) from mid-2008 to mid-2009."

Yowza - during the most difficult year in the company's history, they managed to save NIS 5 million. The pay given to the consultants who advised Africa Israel in the process, including Amir Barnea and Moshe Theumim, alone came to NIS 6 million.

When the negotiations began, the company imperiously proposed that its bondholders write off NIS 2.4 billion. Good job there were "people with vested interests" and people who would save the world backed by that "central media outlet." Now the debt arrangement proposal is in the hands of Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Alshech. There's not much left for the investment managers who bought Africa Israel bonds for the public to do. At least not now.

In five years' time, the world will have moved on and Africa Israel's financial crunch will be a distant memory. The company's chieftains will again be inviting investment managers to a sumptuous breakfast featuring lox and quiche at some luxurious location, and will again suggest that they buy Africa Israel bonds.

Dear investment managers, when that time comes, keep in mind how the Africa Israel managers behaved during the crisis of 2008, and don't forget your true mission: to protect the public's pensions.