"We were offered Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI), but we're not interested in a commercial bank. We're looking for an Israeli asset management company, and we've already met several. As a banking group, we've taken a strategic decision that Israel is important, and we want to be there. All we have to do now is carry the decision out," Edgar Safdie, a scion of the Brazilian-Jewish banking family, told a "Globes" Hebrew-language weekend supplement.
Edgar Safdie said, "Until now, we did not focus on business in Israel. That has now changed. We're about to enter Israel."
The family patriarch, Edmundo Safdie, has not ruled out the acquisition of an Israeli bank. He said the family would acquire an Israeli bank "only if there is something very tempting," adding, "We're carefully examining expanding activity in Israel."
Edgar Safdie said, "An Israeli investment bank, even one that is small at present, will serve as a foundation on which to build a large business in Israel. Private banking, mutual funds, and asset management have created huge non-banking companies, such as Fidelity Investments (a US mutual funds giant). This is less known in Israel, but it could happen here, too.
"The Bachar recommendations can open many opportunities for us, enabling us to take from the banks investment activity in private banking. Until now, Israel has had two or three banks that dominated banking in a monopolistic fashion, and the market was closed to large-scale non-banking activity. But the market will now change utterly. That's precisely why we're here."
Edmundo Safdie added, "The family does not rule out, for example, the acquisition of mutual funds from the banks, which they will have to sell when the Bachar committee reforms are implemented."
The Safdie family is a prominent Jewish banking family, alongside the Safra, Rothschild, and de Picciotto families. The family's Swiss-based Banque Safdie has $120 million in equity.
The Safdie family has other interests besides banking, mostly in Europe and South America, including aviation, water infrastructures, technology, residential real estate, and shopping centers.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on March 23, 2005