Israeli regulator approves new ownership for Partner Communications

The logo of Partner, an Israeli communication firm, is seen at their headquarters in Rosh Ha'ayin near Tel Aviv, Israel June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM, March 29 (Reuters) - Israel's telecoms regulator on Tuesday approved new ownership for Partner Communications (PTNR.TA), just as the industry is set to benefit from a rise 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 a deal to buy a controlling stake in Partner from Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison (0215.HK).

Since then, Hutchison's 27.1% shareholding was in the hands of a court appointed trustee.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Partner is Israel's second-largest mobile phone operator but it has turned into a broader telecoms group with TV and internet services.

The investor group also includes insurance and financial firms Menora Mivtachim (MMHD.TA), Clal (CLIS.TA) and Phoenix .

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

But the ministry said it approved the deal on a view that competition in the mobile sector would be promoted.

It noted the interest of financial entities seeking to increase investments in cellular companies was an expression of confidence in the communications market and its growth.

"The entry of institutional investors into the market may increase public welfare, in part due to the stability that companies will be given to operate in the long term," the ministry said.

Partner and its peers were hit during the COVID-19 pandemic when tourism declined sharply. But demand for cellular roaming services from tourism has grown after Israel started to allow the entry of foreign tourists this year.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Steven Scheer Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.