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Buffett’s Iscar Can Weather Gaza Tumult, Wertheimer Says

Eitan Wertheimer, chairman of Iscar Metalworking Cos. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
Eitan Wertheimer, chairman of Iscar Metalworking Cos. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Iscar Metalworking Cos., the Israel-based firm owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., can withstand the Gaza conflict and tensions in Syria and Lebanon to the north, said unit Chairman Eitan Wertheimer.

Iscar operates in other nations and always has a “fallback position,” including inventories, Wertheimer said in an interview for broadcast today on Bloomberg Television.

“We operate around the world, we have thousands and thousands of people everywhere,” Wertheimer said yesterday in Caesarea, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Iscar’s headquarters in Tefen in northern Israel. “We’ve been used to it ever since we were here.”

Iscar, founded in 1952 by his father Stef Wertheimer, makes cutting gear for industries including aerospace and auto manufacturing. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire paid $4 billion in 2006 for an 80 percent stake in Iscar, which has about 11,000 employees worldwide.

At least 73 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel yesterday, raising the total since Nov. 14 to about 900, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Air-raid sirens sounded twice in Tel Aviv as four rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. A rocket was fired at Jerusalem on Nov. 16, the first such attack in decades. Some 14,000 have been fired from the territory in the past 11 years.

At the same time, a civil war in Syria threatened to spill over Israel’s northern border. Last week, a mortar shell from Syria drew a retaliatory strike from the Israeli army.

Buffett, Berkshire’s 82-year-old chairman and chief executive officer, has praised Wertheimer and Iscar managers Jacob Harpaz and Danny Goldman in his annual letters since acquiring the firm. The toolmaker continued to report profit and make acquisitions while its rivals lost money in 2009, Buffett wrote in a letter the following year to Berkshire shareholders.

“Nothing stops Israel-based Iscar -- not wars, recessions or competitors,” Buffett said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at aodenheimer@bloomberg.net; Noah Buhayar in New York at nbuhayar@bloomberg.net; Elliott Gotkine in London at egotkine@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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