Israel's NewMed predicts $15 bln gas boost for sovereign wealth fund
JERUSALEM, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Israel's NewMed Energy forecast on Tuesday that the country's nascent sovereign wealth fund will get a 52 billion shekel ($15 billion) injection in the coming decade from its two main natural gas fields.
NewMed Energy Chief Executive Yossi Abu said that the company, which is the largest stakeholder in the Leviathan offshore gas project, is also promoting plans for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to boost exports.
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"From today until 2033, an amount of about 52 billion shekels will accumulate in the wealth fund just from the Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs," Abu told a parliamentary panel, referring to Israel's two largest natural gas fields.
Israel found huge gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean over a decade ago and major production began in 2013.
Its sovereign wealth fund kicked off last year, after lengthy delays, with the aim of insulating an overheated currency from the sudden expansion in national wealth due to a windfall from gas sales.
The fund, which is bankrolled by a special tax on those sales and will be managed by The Bank of Israel, was set up in 2014 and was supposed to start operating in 2018, but political turmoil and a slower stream of revenue held it up.
Analysts believe the fund will invest in assets such as stocks and corporate bonds on international markets, with profits gradually being brought back into Israel.
NewMed is partners with Chevron and Ratio in Leviathan, which supplies gas to Israel, Jordan and Egypt through a network of pipelines.
The partners have been examining ways to expand gas exports, and Abu said the hope is to start liquefying it too.
"We are working around the clock as Leviathan partners to develop an independent LNG export facility to export natural gas from Israel," he said during a parliamentary panel on the fund.
Israel and neighbouring Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Union last year to supply the bloc with gas, as it seeks to diversify away from Russia. ($1 = 3.4813 shekels) (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Alexander Smith)