Israeli operator Cellcom purchased its domestic rival Golan Telecom in an ILS545 million ($161.4 million) deal, creating the largest player in the market.

In a statement, Cellcom announced the acquisition was completed yesterday (26 August), less than a fortnight after clearing its final hurdle when the country’s Ministry of Communications (MoC) gave its blessing.

The transaction included Golan Telecom’s cash and cash equivalents, but excluded its debt. The sale price falls far below the ILS750 million local newspaper Globes recently tipped.

GSMA Intelligence data showed the operator’s combined mobile connections stood at more than 3.6 million in Q2. Rival Partner Communications had 2.7 million, Pelephone 2.3 million and Hot Mobile 1.3 million.

Cellcom stated it had complied with a condition set by the MoC to shift Golan Telecom’s operating licence into an MVNO model for an interim period.

Golan Telecom also deposited a bank guarantee with the ministry worth ILS75 million relating to a demand for it to “return certain monetary benefits previously received from the MoC which Golan disputes”.

Cellcom’s efforts to acquire Golan Telecom date back to 2015 when the proposal was met with government resistance.