Israel's Partner Comms profit jumps as costs fall

JERUSALEM Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:02am EDT

JERUSALEM Aug 13 (Reuters) - Partner Communications , Israel's second-largest mobile phone operator, said its quarterly profit more than doubled as lower operating and debt financing costs offset a fall in revenue caused by fierce competition.

Partner, which operates under the Orange brand name, earned 46 million shekels ($13.2 million) in the second quarter, up from 20 million a year earlier and above an estimate of 39.9 million shekels in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Its bottom line was helped by an 8 percent drop in operating expenses due to cost cuts, while its financing costs slid 31 percent as inflation eased and interest rates on its debt fell.

Revenue dipped 4 percent to 1.09 billion shekels, largely as service revenue continued to decline. But equipment revenue rose 25 percent in the April-June period.

Rates for mobile services have more than halved in Israel since the entry of six new providers in 2012, who offered unlimited calling plans for as little as $20 a month.

"During the second quarter competition in the cellular market continued to be intense, which resulted in a further decline in revenues. However, at the same time, the company continued to adjust its cost structure and implement operational efficiency measures," Ziv Leitman, Partner's chief financial officer, said on Wednesday.

Partner launched its 4G network in July and is preparing for 4.5G through an LTE Advanced network.

Its subscriber based declined by 22,000 in the quarter to 2.914 million subscribers and its market shares held steady from the end of March at about 29 percent, the company said.

Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile operator by subscribers, posted an 18 percent rise in second-quarter profit, while Bezeq unit Pelephone - the No.3 player - reported a 34 percent drop in profit.

(1 US dollar = 3.4880 Israeli shekel) (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Pravin Char)

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