Stephane Richard, CEO of French telecoms giant Orange Group, has backtracked on previous announcement that the group is planning to review its business ties with an Israeli telecoms firm and disclosed that Orange is ‘to stay’ in Israel, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports. The executive was cited as saying that he ‘sincerely regrets’ the furore sparked by his comment that Orange would end its brand-licensing agreement with Partner, Israel’s second largest mobile operator, adding: ‘Orange does not support any form of boycott, in Israel or anywhere else in the world … Let me make it very clear that the Orange Group is in Israel to stay.’
As reported by CommsUpdate last week, at a news conference in Egypt Richard said that 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. The company 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.’ The comment 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’.