Israel's top multinationals expand overseas

TEL AVIV, July 9 Wed Jul 9, 2008 2:00pm BST

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TEL AVIV, July 9 (Reuters) - Israel's top 15 multinational enterprises as ranked by foreign assets have $7.5 billion in assets abroad and over $21 billion in foreign sales, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

They also employ nearly 63,000 people overseas.

Foreign sales and employment each have increased by 40 percent from 2004-2006, according to the survey conducted by the Manufacturers Association of Israel, Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University and the Vale-Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment in New York.

Four firms -- phone-billing software maker Amdocs DOX.N, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries TEVA.O (TEVA.TA), geothermal energy producer Ormat Industries (ORMT.TA) and Israel Chemicals (ICL.TA) -- account for 77 percent of foreign assets of the top 15.

"Israeli firms invest abroad to have access to skilled labor and be close to foreign markets, as these are increasingly important as a source of their international competitiveness," Seev Hirsch of Tel Aviv University and head of the Israel ranking project said in a statement.

"In addition, Israeli MNEs (multinational enterprises) use foreign locations to source capital and as a venue for production and/or research and development."

Israeli multinationals have yet to reach the size of their foreign counterparts; only three have more than $1 billion of foreign assets and only two employ over 10,000 people abroad.

But their growth rates far outpace those of the world's 25 leading multinationals, as well as those of the top 25 multinationals from developing countries.

As a result of the dynamic expansion of Israeli multinationals, foreign direct investment (FDI) outflows from Israel rose from very low levels in the early 1990s to $14 billion in 2006, making Israel one of the top 20 countries in terms of outward FDI flows, the survey said.

As a result, the stock of outward FDI has risen to $41 billion in 2006 from $8 billion in 2000 and is expected to continue to rise significantly.

A good part of Israel's outward FDI is in the form of cross-border mergers and acquisitions, led by Teva's $7.4 billion purchase of IVAX Corp. (Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Paul Bolding)