Cellcom Said to Plan Appeal of Blocked Golan Telecom Merger

Cellcom Israel Ltd., the country’s largest wireless operator, plans to appeal the Antitrust Authority’s decision to block its merger with Golan Telecom Ltd., according to a person familiar with the matter.

Cellcom will file an appeal early next week, said the person, who asked not to be named because the decision is private. Cellcom agreed last year to buy Golan for 1.17 billion shekels ($305 million) in a merger that would have given the combined entity about 40 percent of the market in Israel. If an appeal is successful, Cellcom may amend the terms of the transaction, the person said.

Cellcom is pursuing two tracks to neutralize Golan Telecom, whose aggressive wireless plans have fed a price war that’s lowered revenue-per-mobile user by 50 percent in Israel. While considering pressing the government to approve the merger, Cellcom has filed a separate liquidation request against its rival, saying Golan has failed to pay 600 million shekels in debt. Analysts have predicted price increases if Cellcom can succeed in swallowing Golan.

In April, Israeli regulators opposed the sale, saying the deal would undercut a industry reform that has sent calling costs plunging. Golan, partly owned by French-Israeli billionaire Xavier Niel, began operating in 2010, after then-communications minister Moshe Kahlon opened the wireless sector to competition.

Cellcom, operating in a country of 8.5 million people, had 2.8 million subscribers at the end of September. Golan has about 900,000 customers.

Cellcom is represented by law firms Agmon & Co. Rosenberg Hacohen & Co., Meridor Law and Matri, Meiri & Co.

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