Finance minister Yair Lapid to form a committee to review state’s rights to its natural resources. Lapid opposes ICL purchase by Canadian company Potash & says the Israeli public should be the 1st to enjoy the nation’s natural resources.
By Zeev Klein & Hezi Sternlicht
Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced Wednesday that he opposes the sale of Israel Chemicals (ICL), which produces potash from mineral reserves in the Dead Sea region, to the Canadian company Potash.
The Dead Sea. Finance Minister Yair Lapid says natural resources are for Israelis to enjoy. – Photo: Reuters
“I will vigorously oppose the merger,” Lapid said.
Lapid said he planned to inform senior officials at the Finance Ministry of his intention to work militantly to preserve the country’s natural resources.
“Israel’s natural resources are public property, and the Israeli public should be the first to enjoy them,” he said.
Lapid announced plans to form a committee to review the state’s rights to natural resources that are controlled by private industries such as ICL, which is majority owned by Israel Corp., Israel’s largest holding company. The decision signals Lapid’s desire to raise corporate taxes.
Lapid’s announcement came on the heels of reports that Idan Ofer, Israel Corp.’s controlling shareholder and reported by the Financial Times to be Israel’s richest man, plans to move to London, a city which is widely considered to be a tax haven for wealthy Middle Easterners. Israel Corp. shares dropped 6 percent on Wednesday following news of Ofer’s move.
Former Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan lauded Lapid’s ardent stance, saying, “I am pleased with the [finance] minister’s mobilization, which is rooted in his recognition of Israel’s duty to prevent its natural resources from being wiped out.”
Israel Union for Environmental Defense Director-General Amit Bracha also praised Lapid’s stance, saying, “Hopefully environmental issues will become a government priority.”
Though ICL did not respond officially to Lapid’s remarks, its posture is reflected in its contributions to the Israeli economy. On Wednesday, representatives from Israel Corp. and ICL opened trading in Tel Aviv to commemorate 30 and 20 years respectively since the companies began selling stocks.
“The state receives more than $1 billion shekels [$270 million] from ICL every year; we’re going to be paying even more when tax policies change,” Israel Chemicals CEO Stephen Burgess said.
Potash has tried to woo ICL for more than a decade, but its acquisition was derailed previously by Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=8539