Monday, March 21, 2011
Israeli investment group extols virtues of investing in country Gas find ‘changes rules of the game’
Israel’s economy and diplomatic relations with other countries may soon be transformed by its abundant natural gas – and possibly oil – reserves, according to experts in the field.
“It’s a major change of the rules of the game in Israel,” Uri Aldubi, CEO of the Israeli investment firm Halman-Aldubi Group, told a select audience here last week.
Until recently, Israel imported almost all of its natural gas from Egypt, but its cutting-edge ability to detect and extract gas from an enormous supply deep underwater is expected to make it self-sufficient within two years.
“This amount of gas changes everything.... In the next few weeks, we’ll know if we also have oil. Everything we know about Israel is going to change.”
An independent supply of natural gas would be used to generate cleaner electricity, said Aldubi’s business partner, Rony Halman. “It will improve dramatically the environment in Israel. Ten years ago, 100 per cent of Israel’s electricity was made with coal imported from Australia.”
Since then, it has been reduced to 60 per cent coal and 40 per cent natural gas. An increased supply of electricity would also be used for water desalination plants. Once Israel’s domestic needs are met, “from that moment,” Aldubi said, “the new drills will be for export.”
Aldubi is also chairman of the Association of Oil and Gas Exploration Industries In Israel and director of Israel Opportunity Oil & Gas Exploration Ltd. Halman is chairman of both Halman-Aldubi Group and Israel Opportunity Oil & Gas Exploration Ltd.
The two men said the current upheaval in parts of the Arab world and the relative stability of Israel, coupled with its booming economy and pending emergence as a gas and oil supplier, is already warming up relations with the United States and may have the same effect with other countries.
“If someone can ally with Israel and Israel can give them gas, it’s important,” Aldubi said. “If we have oil, this will totally change the geopolitical situation in Israel.”
Halman and Aldubi were brought to Toronto by Zale Newman, president of the investment firm Bond Street Mercantile, whose Holy Land Investment Fund features several Halman-Aldubi Group funds.
“Our premise is that anyone, whether they be Jewish or not, if they have an affinity for Israel, they ought to invest some money there,” Newman said. “But aside from the emotional side, we’d like to give people an intellectual reason to give, an understanding.”
Jonathan Levy, Israel’s consul for economic affairs and trade commissioner to Canada, said, “It’s not simply out of sentiment, but also for business reasons that I hope you would choose to invest in Israel. I know that philanthropy is very big here in Canada but we would also want you to invest in Israel and profit from the opportunities that exist there.”
Amir Gissin, Israel’s consul general for Toronto and Western Canada, emphasized the mutual benefits derived from the ever-strengthening bonds between Canada and Israel.
Last year’s trade delegation to Israel by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was larger than previous delegations to India and China, he said.
“It means something is moving, something is changing in the landscape of doing business between the two countries. Israel is a place where there are a lot of business opportunities; Canada is the same.... Last year we had more state visits of Canadian leaders to Israel than probably in all of the 20 years before that. This is a great development, but the important thing is that this is just the beginning.”