September 22, 2019 / 11:04 AM / 2 months ago

Saban to return controlling stake in Israel's Partner Comms: media

FILE PHOTO - Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban arrives to attend the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S.-Israeli media magnate Haim Saban plans to give up his controlling stake in Israeli mobile phone operator Partner Communications (PTNR.TA), financial media reported on Sunday.

A spokesman for Saban declined to comment.

Saban bought his 30% stake in Partner, Israel’s second-largest mobile operator, from Scailex in 2013 mostly in the form of a $300 million loan from Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa (0215.HK).

The Globes newspaper said repayment is due in January 2020 and since there is no economic reason to repay the loan, Saban prefers to return the shares. Saban’s holdings have slid in value to 753 million shekels ($214 million).

The Calcalist daily said Saban had lost $175 million on his investment in Partner and would return the shares by the end of the year. It noted that Saban had used his holdings in Partner, whose market value stands at 2.5 billion shekels, as collateral for the loan.

Hutchison founded Partner in the late 1990s and sold its stake to Scailex in 2009 before Scailex sold it to Saban.

Like its peers, Partner’s (PTNR.O) revenue and profit have plunged in the wake of a 2012 reform that opened the mobile market to new players, sharply reducing prices. It is seeking new revenue streams and pushing to become an integrated multi-service telecoms group.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Tova Cohen and Dale Hudson

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