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Awards for excellence - Israel

Best bank

Bank Hapoalim

Best debt house

Citigroup/Salomon Smith Barney

Best equity house

UBS Warburg

Best M&A

Citigroup/Salomon Smith Barney

In Israel two banks compete strongly for the position of best bank. This year Bank Hapoalim continues to beat off the formidable challenge of its closest rival, Bank Leumi.

Joel Maryles

Both are seen as very strong players and are easily the country's two biggest banks. "Between the two it is always hard to choose, because they are much of a muchness" says an analyst.

Hapoalim, though, is reckoned to be maintaining its focus on core strengths, whereas Leumi is perceived to be diversifying into sectors that commentators feel offer little value. "Hapoalim hasn't been buying hotels and oil companies and is focusing on straightforward banking," explains one.

Although Israel is not a large market in terms of population, customers are sophisticated - by far the most sophisticated in the Middle East.

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