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Partner Declines as No Competition Relief Seen: Tel Aviv Mover

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May 22 (Bloomberg) -- Partner Communications Co. and Cellcom Israel Ltd., the country’s two largest mobile phone providers, declined today on bets there will be no immediate easing of competition.

Shares of Partner, Israel’s second-largest mobile phone provider, dropped 3.9 percent, the most since Dec. 18, to 22.97 shekels, at the close in Tel Aviv. The Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel-based company was the biggest decliner in percentage terms on the benchmark TA-25 Index, which gained less than 0.1 percent. Cellcom declined 1.2 percent to 32.60 shekels.

“Investors don’t see any significant change in the operations of these companies in the near future,” Ilanit Sherf, an analyst at Psagot Investment House in Tel Aviv, said today by phone. It’s “difficult to see a positive trend lurking in any of the companies we cover in the sector,” she wrote yesterday in an e-mailed report.

First-quarter profit at Partner fell 79 percent to 31 million shekels, below the 64 million shekels estimated by Psagot Investment House Ltd. and the 63 million shekels forecast by IBI-Israel Brokerage & Investments Ltd., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The wireless industry was 95 percent controlled by Cellcom, Partner and Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp. before the government opened it to competition, according to data from the Ministry of Communication. The shares of the incumbents were the worst performers on the TA-25 last year as new operators, including Hot Telecommunication System Ltd. and Golan Telecom Ltd., entered the market in May 2012.

Bezeq, which provides wireless services via its Pelephone Communications Ltd. unit, gained 0.3 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shoshanna Solomon in Tel Aviv at ssolomon22@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at cmaedler@bloomberg.net