Orange burns its bridges as Israeli brand

Doron Avigad

Partner needs to disassociate itself from Orange and France Telecom as soon as possible.

Can someone explain to me the stupid argument by the heads of Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) that they are linked to France Telecom only through the Orange brand?

The problem, of course,is the word "only." Partner has been associated with this company and the brand that represents it in Israel and all over the world since 1998, in other words, for the past 17 years. Partner's CEOs, both outgoing CEO Haim Romano and incoming CEO Itzik Benbenisti, both say that hundreds of millions of euros have been invested in this brand over the years.

Now Partner is trying to persuade us that it could do without Orange tomorrow, if it "feels like it," just like Orange International CEO Stephane Richard, it seems, "feels like it." That is just hot air with nothing to back it, of course, aimed at avoiding a loss of customers with a particularly sensitive national ego. I suspect that there are plenty of those, especially in a competitive market like the Israeli cellular market.

If we're playing on the field of monetary considerations, Partner cannot get rid of Orange tomorrow, just as France Telecom, which owns the Orange brand, cannot get rid of Partner and Israel. The one who makes the first move will lose a great deal of money, and that, it seems is still more important than any other consideration.

In this case, it is better to look at deeds than to listen to words, or more accurately, the absence of deeds. The Orange CEO opened his mouth - and, as of now, has done nothing. The Partner executives have talked quite a bit, and what have they done? They are all "assessing," "considering," and "evaluating" - but they are not really interested in a divorce. They hope we will think that they are serious, nationalistic, and value-driven - and that we do not notice that they are merely talking.

Partner, however, cannot afford to leave it at that. It must try to get some kind of compensation out of France Telecom and Orange, and to disassociate itself from them as soon as possible. To put it in popular language, Orange has burned its bridges.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 4, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

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