Israeli regulator approves new owner of Partner Communications


The logo of Partner, an Israeli communications company, is seen at its headquarters in Rosh Ha’ayin near Tel Aviv, Israel June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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JERUSALEM, March 29 (Reuters) – Israel’s telecoms regulator approved new ownership of Partner Communications (PTNR.TA) on Tuesday, just as the industry is expected to benefit from an increase in tourism.

In late 2021, a group of investors including former Cellcom (CEL.TA) CEO Avi Gabay and former Bezeq Israel Telecom (BEZQ.TA) chairman Shlomo Rodav signed an agreement to buy a majority stake in Partner at the Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison (0215.HK).

Since then, Hutchison’s 27.1% stake has been in the hands of a court-appointed trustee.

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Partner is Israel’s second-largest mobile phone operator, but it has morphed into a larger telecommunications group with TV and internet services.

The group of investors also includes insurance and financial companies Menora Mivtachim (MMHD.TA), Clal (CLIS.TA) and Phoenix.

Phoenix will own 20% of Partner as well as 10% of Cellcom.

But the ministry said it approved the deal with a view to promoting competition in the mobile phone sector.

He noted that the interest of financial entities seeking to increase investment in mobile phone companies was an expression of confidence in the communications market and its growth.

“The entry of institutional investors into the market can increase public welfare, in part through the stability that businesses will enjoy to operate over the long term,” the ministry said.

Partner and its peers were impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic when tourism declined sharply. But tourism’s demand for cellular roaming services has increased after Israel began allowing foreign tourists to enter this year.

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Reporting by Steven Scheer Editing by Mark Potter

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