Cellcom and Partner (Orange) – Israel’s two largest mobile operators – have both pulled out of bidding for their smaller rival Mirs communications, Motorola’s Israeli subsidiary that is up for sale. Partner said in a statement that its “offer for the acquisition of 100 percent of the issued and outstanding share capital of Mirs… will not be proceeding and discussions have been terminated,” while Cellcom’s parent company (Discount Investment Corp) announced its withdrawal in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. According to a Reuters report, the withdrawal of Cellcom and Partner leaves three potential buyers in the running: Israel’s third-largest operator, Pelephone, cable company HOT, and 012 Smile Communications, an ISP.
It is thought that Cellcom and Partner withdrew from the process because of possible anti-trust concerns. According to earlier reports, both Israel’s Ministry of Communications and the country’s Antitrust Authority were opposed to them acquiring the company. Mirs – Israel’s fourth-largest (and smallest) mobile network – is valued at around US$300 million. It is a subsidiary of Motorola that uses the proprietary iDEN mobile technology developed and supported by the US vendor. However, Mirs has reportedly been looking to switch to a 3G technology after it was recently barred from bidding for a WiMAX license. According to Wireless Intelligence data, Mirs had 574,000 connections by the end of 2Q09, giving it a 6 percent market share. Its three larger rivals are Cellcom (3.2 million connections), Partner (2.9 million) and Pelephone (2.7 million).