Monday, August 16, 2010

Economics, not Politics: Harvard Sale of Israeli Stocks not complete liquidation of Israeli Portfolio

The Israeli Business Magazine Globes reported yesterday that The Harvard University Fund, which manages Harvard's investments, liquidated all its Israeli stocks in the last quarter of 2010. It was done without any announcement and there was concern that it might have been a result of a movement to boycott and divest from Israel.

It turns out the report was inaccurate in a number of ways.

Harvard did not liquidate all Israeli stocks, just the majority. It was an economic decision based, in all likelihood, on Israel's upgrade to a "Developed" economy from an "emerging" one.

Harvard Management Company spokesman John Longbrake has issued the following statement:

The Management Company's most recent SEC filing details changes in holdings, as is routine, but no change in policy. The University has not divested from Israel. Israel was moved from the MSCI, our benchmark in emerging markets, to the EAFE index in May due to its successful growth.

Our emerging markets holdings were rebalanced accordingly. We have holdings in developed markets, including Israel, through outside managers in commingled accounts and indexes, which are not reported in the filing in question.

Without factual confirmation, proponents of the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign have claimed the Harvard sale as a victory, but their information was premature, erroneous, and incomplete.

Benjamin Joffe-Walt reports in The Media Line:
Dr. Gil Feiler, founder of Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd and director of the Middle East Business and Economic Research Institute at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya told The Media Line. “They didn’t eliminate their investments in Israeli stocks,” he claimed. “They still have tens of millions of dollars invested, and if you are going to boycott Israel you sell all your stocks.”

Dr. Feiler, an expert in Israeli trade with Middle Eastern nations, argued the BDS movement, which he referred to as an ‘Arab’ boycott, is losing steam.
“The Arab boycott of Israel has no bite anymore, not economically and not in terms of perception,” he said. “They cannot even call a quorum in their meetings.”
“Israel is a huge market, buying much more than the Arab countries. The Israeli stock exchange is much bigger than a few Arab stock exchanges put together, and the Israeli GDP per capita is larger than even Saudi Arabia.”

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