Another long-running merger saga appears to be close to an end with the news that Israel’s communications minister has approved the merger of operators Cellcom and Golan.
While the deal has not been formally closed yet – that should happen next week – this appears to be the final hurdle for an agreement that will create Israel's largest mobile telephony group.
Local newspaper Globes has reported that Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel has given approval to the takeover, in accordance with the conditions set by the ministry. The ministry said that the minister's approval came after a thorough, in-depth examination of the deal, and on the recommendation of the ministry's professional staff.
There are some strings attached to the approval, however, one of which involves maintaining mobile service for Golan Telecom customers.
The Ministry of Communications has accepted Cellcom’s request that Golan Telecom should remain a virtual carrier and an active player in the market under Cellcom's wing.
The merged company will be the largest in Israel's mobile market, with some 3.6 million subscribers, a clear lead over the number two, Partner, which was not far behind Cellcom’s 2.7 million before the merger.
It was in February that Cellcom announced that it would buy Golan Telecom at a valuation of about $216.3 million at current exchange rates.
In early June the Ministry of Finance gave the green light to the merger, saying that its effect on competition, on price levels, and on investment in the market did not raise concerns. Also in early June the Israel Competition Authority approved the merger unconditionally saying that it did not harm competition. With the approval of the Communications Ministry now received, the merger is close to being finalised
This is the second attempt by Cellcom to acquire Golan Telecom. Regulators opposed an earlier move in 2015.