The Israeli Communications Ministry has said it is studying reports that local mobile operator - Partner Communications (operates under the Orange brand name) - has a new indirect shareholder -the Egyptian company Orascom.
The largest mobile-phone operator in the Middle East announced last week that it is buying a 19.3 percent stake in Hutchison Telecommunications International, which controls Partner. Orascom agreed to pay $1.3 billion for the stake in Hutchison, which owns 52 percent of Partner.
According to Haaretz newspaper, Israel imposes certain restrictions on telecom firms ownership due to "security reasons." In the past, Israel's Shin Bet security agency was tightly involved in the privatization process of the leading Israeli telecom firm (Bezeq), trying to ensure that foreign owners would not have business dealings in the Arab world.
Partner is one of Israel's biggest communications players, serving 2.5 million users, say a third of the population.
Orascom Telecom (“OTH”) was established in 1998 and has grown to become a major player in the global telecommunication market. OTH is considered among the largest and most diversified network operators in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan. It is a leading mobile telecommunications company operating in seven emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia having a population under license of 460 million in total population with an average penetration of mobile telephony rate across all markets of 11.5%.
Orascom Telecom operates GSM networks in Algeria ("Djezzy"), Egypt ("MobiNil"), Pakistan ("Mobilink"), Iraq ("IraQna"), Bangladesh ("Banglalink"), Tunisia ("Tunisiana") and Zimbabwe (“Telecel Zimbabwe”). Orascom Telecom subscriber number reached over 25.5 million subscribers as of September, 2005.