JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli high-tech firms raised $483 million in venture capital in the first quarter, after raising $2.14 billion in 2011, the Israel Venture Capital (IVC) Research Center said on Monday.
The amount raised in the January-March period was 15 percent lower than the fourth quarter but flat versus the first quarter of 2011, IVC, in cooperation with the Israeli office of consultancy KPMG, said in a report.
"We've seen another strong quarter of technology investments," said Ofer Sela, a partner at KPMG's technology group. "The drought that everyone feared hasn't materialized," Sela said, referring to the impact of an uncertain global economic outlook. "Local industry is receiving significant reinforcement from foreign investors who are steadily increasing their investments in Israeli technology companies."
Israeli high-tech companies are key drivers of the economy, helping to spur growth of 4.8 percent in 2011.
The share of capital raised by Israeli VCs fell to 25 percent in the first quarter from 28 percent a year earlier.
"Total investments by Israeli VC funds are still relatively low compared to the past, however both in the fourth quarter of 2011 and first quarter of 2012 we noted that nearly half of the funds' investments went toward first investments," said Koby Simana, chief executive of the IVC Research Center.
"The data is not enough to point to a new trend yet, but these are certainly encouraging news for the Israeli high-tech industry."
In the first quarter, the life sciences sector attracted the largest share of funds at 27 percent, its highest amount in two years. Software companies raised 22 percent, followed by Internet firms at 16 percent. Semiconductors received just 2 percent.
"The low level of investment in the semiconductor industry is worrying. This is an area in which many Israeli companies excel," Sela said. "The decreasing trend of semiconductor investments could cause Israeli industry to lose its position as a center of global innovation in this area."
The IVC has estimated a decline in high-tech VC capital raising to about $1.5 billion in 2012.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer. Editing by Jane Merriman)