1. According to PriceWaterouseCoopers, the 2019 volume of Israeli hightech exits (companies that were sold or held stock exchange offerings), totaled $9.9BN, compared to $4.9BN in 2018, $7.4BN in 2017, $14.9 in 2014, $7.6BN in 2016 and $1.2BN in 2010. If 10 follow-on deals are included (companies acquired more than once, or acquired after public offering), then the 2019 volume surges to $22BN. $4.5BN of the 2019 exits were in computing services and corporate software, $2.3BN in the chips sector, $1.7BN in life sciences, and $1BN in the Internet sector.
The past decade featured 587 exits, totaling $71BN. If follow-on deals are included, the total surges to $108BN.
Major US corporations persist in leading the acquisition of Israeli hightech companies – $8.9BN in 2019 (Globes Business Daily, December 24, 2019).
The substantial flow of private US investment – establishing, in Israel, multitude of research and development centers – reflects Israel’s unique contribution to the US economy in terms of research and development, enhanced US competitiveness in the global market, increased exports of US products and expanded base of US employment.
2. Intel invested $2BN in the acquisition of Israel’s 3-year-old Habana Laboratories, which develops chips for Artificial Intelligence applications. It is Intel’s 13th acquisition of an Israeli company (Bloomberg, December 16). Intel has operated in Israel since 1974, employing 12,000 people in one manufacturing plant and four research and development centers.
3. Texas-based Noble Energy, which operates Israel’s largest offshore natural gas field, Leviathan, will start supplying the local Israeli market by the end of December. In January, 2020, Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling will start exporting natural gas to Egypt, as prescribed by a $20BN deal – of 85 billion cubic meters (3 trillion cubic feet) – concluded with Egypt. Egypt will be able to export the imported natural gas following its liquefaction (Al-Monitor, Dec. 13) in Egyptian installations.
4. Key Israeli economic factors in 2020:
*Interest rate is expected to remain low (around zero);
*Inflation is expected to remain low (around 2%);
*The ratio of national debt to gross domestic product is expected to remain low (around 60%, compared to the US – 60% and Japan – almost 250%);
*Expanding employment and all time low unemployment (4% and below);
*Expanded employment of ultra-orthodox Jews and Arabs;
*Annual economic growth is expected to be sustained at 3%-3.5%;
*Israel’s Shekel is expected to remain strong (around 3.4 per dollar);
*Overseas investment in Israel’s hightech will persist at high levels;
*Export of high added-value commercial and military products will keep growing, irrespective of the strong Shekel;
*Offshore natural gas export (to Egypt and in the long run to Europe) will alleviate the burden of the 2019 growing budget deficit, which will require across-the-board budget cuts;
*Israel’s demography will remain robust (high Jewish fertility rate and growing net-immigration/Aliyah);
*Israel’s solid economy provides for a friendly debt-financing environment.
(Globes, December 17).
5. Some 140 airliners land in Israel, reflecting the sizeable number of Israelis flying abroad (8.5MN in 2019) and tourists (4.5MN in 2019). Israel’s population is 9 million. The volume of passengers to/from Israel grew by 9% in 2019, compared with a 5% global growth. It contributed $16BN and 184,000 jobs to Israel’s economy. Direct flights were initiated from Israel to Las Vegas, Chicago, Brazil and Chile, and additional direct flights are expected, in 2020, to Dallas, Tokyo and Australia (Globes, Dec. 24, 2020).