June 10, 2020 / 11:13 AM / a month ago

Cellcom purchase of Golan Telecom approved by Israel regulator

FILE PHOTO: A man stands near the shop entrance of Israeli mobile phone operator, Cellcom, in Ashdod, south Israel September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s antitrust authority on Wednesday cleared the proposed acquisition of Golan Telecom by Cellcom Israel (CEL.TA), the country’s largest mobile operator.

Cellcom (CEL.N) in February offered to pay 590 million shekels ($171 million) for its smaller rival, which is held by Electra Consumer Products (ECP.TA).

The authority’s approval came after the Finance Ministry on Sunday said it had no reason to oppose the deal.

“The cellular market is one of the most competitive markets in Israel,” it said, noting there are six players operating on three mobile networks and about 2 million subscribers a year switch providers.

The authority also said that since Golan and Cellcom have been in a network sharing agreement since 2017, the merger would not reduce the number of networks in Israel, while prices would still remain competitive.

Israel’s mobile phone industry was shaken up in 2012 with the entry of new operators, sparking a price war. Struggling to remain profitable, the sector is seeing moves towards consolidation.

In 2016, the competition authority blocked Cellcom’s bid to buy Golan on fears mobile prices would rise.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Tova Cohen

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