Israel Offers Incentives to Draw Foreign Banks’ R&D Centers

Israel Offers Incentives to Draw Foreign Banks’ R&D Centers
Haim Shani, director general of Israel's finance ministrry during an interview in New York. Photographer: Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg

Israel is trying to lure international banks to set up research and development centers in the country by offering to pay part of the employees’ salaries, Finance Ministry Director General Haim Shani said.

Israel’s government will pay as much as 50 percent of the workers’ wages at the banks’ R&D units for up to five years, Shani said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters office in New York yesterday. The incentive will vary depending on whether the centers will be based in the central part of the country or in the periphery as well as on the level of salary, he said.

“We want to attract large financial services companies, particularly big banks,” said Shani, 53, who was previously the chief executive officer of the Israeli maker of digital- recording products, Nice Systems Ltd. “It will make part of their competitive advantage in the years to come.”

Israel wants to capitalize on its technology industry, whose exports rose an annualized 68 percent in the first 11 months in 2009, to help boost growth following the global economic crisis. The country’s economy will grow by 3.6 percent this year, according to a June 6 Finance Ministry forecast, and by 3.8 percent next year.

Shani is meeting with officials at U.S. financial companies following meetings in the U.K. a few months ago. He declined to name any of the banks he will visit.

“We are here to listen to what they want and tell them what we have and what our plans are,” he said.

Intel Corp.’s Israel unit has received $1.2 billion in grants from the Israeli government since it began manufacturing in the country 25 years ago. The chipmaker has invested a total of $7.3 billion in its Israeli operations. The company accounted for 10 percent of Israel’s industrial exports, Intel Israel’s General Manager Maxine Fassberg said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Feb. 8.

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