Plans by France-based Orange Group intends to end its brand licensing deal with Israeli cellco Partner Communications have prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call on France, which holds a 25% stake in Orange Group, to ‘publicly renounce the distressing statement and action’.
According to Reuters, the matter came to a head over comments made by Orange Group CEO Stephane Richard at a news conference in Egypt, with the executive having said he was willing to withdraw the Orange brand from Israel ‘tomorrow morning’, before adding that moving too quickly would expose his company to legal risks and possible financial penalties.
Commenting on the remarks, Orange Group has, however, stressed that terminating the arrangement with Partner Communications was a business decision, not a political one. To that end, Orange said that in line with its licensing policy, it does not want to keep its brand presence in countries where it is not an operator. ‘Within this framework, and while strictly respecting existing accords, Orange would like to put an end to this brand licencing.’ However, in a letter released to the media, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzippi Hotovely voiced concern over the ‘possibility of a future withdrawal of the Orange brand from Israel’, urging Richard to refrain from being ‘party to the industry of lies which unfairly targets Israel’. Orange, though, has argued that its CEO’s comments had been taken out of context.
For its part, Partner Communications has looked to head off any public backlash over the matter, highlighting in a statement the fact that ‘the sole connection’ between it and Orange Group is the brand, which has been used by the Israeli company since 1998.