Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban is poised to offload his controlling stake in Israel’s full-service telecoms operator Partner Communications, with Hong Kong-based former shareholder CK Hutchison expected to take receipt of the shareholding. According to local news site Globes, Saban – who owns his 30.38% stake via SB Israel Telecom, an affiliate of Saban Capital Group – talks with Hutchison regarding the recycling of a USD300 million loan recently ended inconclusively, meaning that Hutchison now has the opportunity to re-take control of the company, which it co-founded back in 1998. Saban has informed the Ministry of Communications (MoC) that it will not be able to repay debt falling due on 29 January 2020; the businessman inherited the debt when he bought control of Partner from Ilan Ben-Dov in 2013.
Through a spokesperson, Saban commented: ‘We invested in Partner with the aim of turning into the most advanced communications group in Israel. Today, Partner provides the highest quality mobile telephony, the most innovative multi-channel television, and leads in deploying fibre-optic infrastructure throughout Israel. All this is despite all the difficulties, the substantial failures, and the regulatory obstacles in the way. The Saban Group bears the loss that it has incurred alone, with no involvement of any financial institution or the public in Israel.’
With a view to sealing the stake transfer, representatives of CK Hutchison met with MoC officials earlier this month. The report notes that Hutchison is currently active in Israel with its water desalination business; Hutchison Water is managed by former Partner CEO Amikam Cohen.