The Adani Group on Tuesday acquired the strategic Israeli port of Haifa for USD 1.2 billion and vowed to transform the skyline of this Mediterranean city as part of its decision to invest more in the Jewish nation, including opening an artificial intelligence lab in Tel Aviv.
Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani, whose business empire was rocked by allegations of fraud by US short seller Hindenburg Research, appeared alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for signing of the deal to takeover Haifa Port, and spoke of investment opportunities.
Prime Minister Netanyahu described the Haifa port deal with the Adani Group as an "enormous milestone", saying it will significantly improve connectivity between the two countries in many ways.
The Port of Haifa is the second largest port in Israel in terms of shipping containers and the biggest in shipping tourist cruise ships.
"I think this is an enormous milestone...Over 100 years ago, and during World World I, it was the brave Indian soldiers who helped liberate the city of Haifa. And today, it's very robust Indian investors who are helping to liberate the port of Haifa," Netanyahu said.
The Prime Minister said that he discussed with his "good friend" Indian counterpart Narendra Modi this vision of "having connectivity between our countries in many ways, transportation lines and air routes and sea routes...and it's happening today." He said what is happening today has historic importance because what "we see there is a tremendous boost for peace." Netanyahu said the region will become an entry point and an exit point to a vast number of goods that reach the Mediterranean and Europe directly without having to go around the Arabian peninsula without having to go through three choke points.
"This is an unequivocal expression of confidence in the Israeli economy," he said, adding that privatisation of the ports and the entry of new investors strengthen Israel's economic strength, lowers the cost of living and creates new opportunities for import and export and strengthens ties between India and Israel.
On his part, Adani said his group will also develop real estate at the port to transform the Haifa skyline.
The 60-year-old Indian tycoon did not make any mention of the Hindenburg row that has already wiped out over USD 70 billion in value from his group stocks.
"We have initiated several dozen technology relationships wherein we have offered the entire Adani portfolio of companies to be a giant sandbox for us to learn together," he said in his speech. "We are also in the process of setting up an Artificial Intelligence lab in Tel Aviv which will work in close collaboration with our new AI labs in India and US." He later tweeted about his meeting with Netanyahu.
"Privileged to meet with @IsraeliPM @netanyahu on this momentous day as the Port of Haifa is handed over to the Adani Group. The Abraham Accord will be a game changer for the Mediterranean sea logistics. Adani Gadot set to transform Haifa Port into a landmark for all to admire," Adani said in a tweet.
The UAE forged diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020 under a series of US-brokered deals known as the Abraham Accords. Bahrain and Morocco followed suit.
The agreements spearheaded by then US President Donald Trump challenged the long-held view that there would be no relations between the Arab world and Israel while the Palestinian question remains unresolved.
In the last six years, Adani group has struck many critical partnerships with companies such as Elbit Systems, Israel Weapon Systems, and Israel Innovation Authority.
Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone Ltd in partnership with local chemicals and logistics group Gadot in July last year won an Israel government's tender to buy the Haifa Port, a major trade hub on Israel's Mediterranean coast, for about USD 1.2 billion.
Adani's company has no holdings in the West, so its entry into Israel is a signal for increased maritime traffic between Asia and Europe, and the major Asian players' need for a hub in the Mediterranean.
"The acquisition of the Haifa port also comes with a significant amount of real estate. And I promise you that in the years to come we will transform the skyline we see around us," said Adani, the founder and chairman of the group.
"The Haifa of tomorrow - will look very different from the Haifa that you see today. With your support - we will deliver on this commitment and do our part to transform this city." He expressed confidence in transforming the entire port landscape. "We realize that there will be competition from others, but our confidence comes from our belief in the people of Israel and therefore our belief in the Israel Growth story." "Our intention is to make the right set of investments that will not just make the Adani Gadot partnership proud but will make the whole of Israel proud," he said.
Stating that the Israeli spirit makes all the difference, he said his group also aims to establish collaborative relationships with local colleges like the University of Haifa to be able to capitalise on the deep technology expertise available in this city.
Adani said India-Israel friendship dates back to September 23, 1918, when soldiers from the Indian cities of Mysore, Hyderabad and Jodhpur battled here for the freedom of Haifa.
"And earlier today, I had an opportunity to visit the cemetery where our soldiers were put to rest. It was a moving moment for me to reflect on the fact that the port we now share - is part of the same city - where soldiers from both our countries - fought side by side for the ultimate shared cause that we all call -- Freedom," he said.
He went on to state that Israel has always motivated him. "You have rewritten the rules of what a country with a population of less than ten million can achieve. You have rewritten the rules by proving what a country with very few natural resources can achieve. And you have rewritten the rules by showcasing what a country with self-belief can achieve." The elasticity of Israel makes it the world's most resilient nation. "Your pace of innovation across multiple sectors amazes me. Your drive for innovation makes me wonder how we can learn from you. You have focused on sustainable growth far before the world was talking about sustainability," he said.
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