Govt preventing Israel Chemicals from investing heavily -CEO

JERUSALEM Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:25am EST

JERUSALEM Dec 16 (Reuters) - Israel Chemicals (ICL) plans to invest billions of shekels in Israel over the next decade but the funds may go abroad if the government continues to make investing difficult, Chief Executive Stefan Borgas said on Monday.

ICL is the world's sixth-largest producer of the crop nutrient potash, which is extracted from the Dead Sea. It is also the second-largest company traded on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and its exports account for 7.5 percent of Israel's total exports.

"The planned investment budget for ICL in the coming decade is more than 40 billion shekels ($11 billion). We want to invest a lot in Israel in the coming decade to preserve our production activity in Israel but I do not understand why the government does everything possible to prevent us from investing, almost forcing us to invest in other countries," Borgas told a government panel examining royalties the state earns from natural resources, citing its new mine in Spain.

ICL has been angered by the government's decision to reopen the issue of royalties it pays less than a year after it signed a deal to double its royalty payments to 10 percent.

Borgas noted that ICL invests 2 billion shekels a year in Israel, the highest of any company. He said a benefit of 2 billion shekels received from the state encouraged a 12 billion shekel investment that led to a doubling of potash production.

ICL said numerous requests for a licence to mine new reserves for phosphate have gone unanswered for years. Its phosphate reserves in Israel will be exhausted in seven to eight years, Borgas said.

"The result is we are finding cheaper alternatives abroad," he said, adding the industry exports billions and pays high salaries.

Potash Corp of Saskatchewan owns 14 percent of ICL. Its attempts to increase its stake have been rebuffed by the Israeli government, which holds a golden share.

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