Israel water tech thrives in weakened economy

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel’s water technology sector has prospered despite the global financial crisis, largely due to global stimulus packages and penetration in developing countries, officials said on Wednesday.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer stands at a hotel balcony during the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) annual meeting in Tel Aviv June 11, 2009. FREUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen

Though affected by a slowdown in spending in the country and throughout the world, Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade said there is an “opposite and strong trend” in the demand for water technologies that will generate growth in companies.

At least half of Israel’s water industry leaders will present sales growth in 2009 despite the global crisis, the ministry projected at its annual WATEC conference in Tel Aviv.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said this week Israel’s economy is recovering faster from the financial crisis than many countries, due in part to strong exports in Israel’s high-tech sector.

But this year, for the first time, a water recycling company holds the spot of Israel’s fastest growing technology company.

“In this regard, cleantech has surpassed high-tech for the first time,” Oded Distell, director of Israel’s national water technology programme, told Reuters.

Israel expects to export $2.5 billion in water technology annually by 2011, Distel said.

Water recycling company Aqwise, whose system breeds bacteria to break down organic waste, saw its sales increase 50 percent in 2009, said Chief Executive Officer Elad Frenkel, capping five years of growth that put it at the top of the list.

Frenkel said Aqwise, founded in 2000, increased revenue by investing resources in Latin American and Asian markets while more developed regions, like Europe, were still hurting from the gloomy economic climate.

Ori Yogev, a top economic advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Reuters that water companies took a hit in the last quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009.

“But the damage was less than in other sectors, largely thanks to increased spending by governments,” Yogev said, adding that water companies benefit from both infrastructure and cleantech spending, both cornerstones of stimulus packages.

Yogev in 2006 founded Whitewater, a technology group that deals with water management, security and treatment. He expects Whitewater to post more than 10 percent sales growth in 2009.

Irrigation company NaanDan Jain, a unique venture owned by the Israeli agricultural commune Kibbutz Naan and India’s Jain Irrigation Systems, has also increased its revenue with strong sales in areas like Central Asia and South America.

Company CEO Avner Hermoni said NaanDan Jain, estimated by Israeli media reports to have annual sales of $100 million, has seen a rise of 10 percent since 2008.

Editing by Jon Loades-Carter