TEL AVIV — Over the past few weeks, we have heard many members of Parliament calling on the government to block the sale of Israeli dairy company Tnuva to China's Bright Food. Such a ban would be very bad news for Israel.
We must first remember the basic principal that business decisions should be taken by the shareholders and the executives of a private company such as Tnuva, whose legitimate goal is to achieve the highest profit in such transactions. There is almost never a place for government intervention in the business decisions of private owners. Sometimes, in rare cases, the State owns the so-called "golden share" that allows it to block a business deal that goes against the State’s interest. But it is not the case of Tnuva.
I have not heard hard, specific explanations for why we should not make a deal with the Chinese. I do not understand what Israel particularly risks by selling Tnuva to a Chinese company, and not to a another foreign company. I get the impression instead that this is a case of politicians just looking to score points with voters.
There is no danger to move Tnuva’s factories to China, and if the deal goes through, it could open Tnuva's products to the Chinese market. Since the Chinese dairy market is still in its early years, and lacks the qualities that our market here has, Tnuva could benefit from such a deal.
A small deal with big implications
This is not a case of copyright pirating by some Chinese company swiping the knowledge acquired over the years by an Israeli company without paying for it. Bright Food is willing to pay the honest price for Tnuva, according to the Tnuva shareholders.
If the state winds up blocking the deal between Tnuva and China, it will not end there. Other foreign businesses in Israel risk turning back to where they came from for fear of government intervention. We could return to the days, last century, when the economy was regulated by the State.
Emotionally speaking, the mixed feelings can be understood. We all grew up drinking our cup of Tnuva milk in the morning. But from a business point of view, Israel will lose if the deal does not go through. Israel has been busy trying to bring China closer, culminating with last May's trip there by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blocking this deal risks tossing away much of the efforts to make China and its leaders aware that Israel can and wants to cooperate with them in such fields as high-tech, medical research, energy, water, agriculture and telecommunications.
China is the No. 2 superpower in the world right now. Only good can come if, next to our oldest ally the United States, we can add China as a country that supports the economic development and prosperity of Israel. It will both help in other business sectors, as well as strengthen Israel’s overall geopolitical standing and security.
*Eli Shilony is founder and CEO of NHI-New Horizon Industrade which accompanies Israeli businesses in China. He has no connection to Tnuva or its recent business deals.