March 26, 2020 / 9:07 AM / 5 days ago

Israel's Partner Comm Q4 profit drops, warns of coronavirus impact

JERUSALEM, March 26 (Reuters) - Partner Communications , Israel's second-largest mobile phone operator, reported on Thursday a 63% drop in fourth quarter profit and warned of a negative impact ahead due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Partner said it earned 7 million shekels ($1.9 million) in the quarter, down from 19 million a year earlier. Revenue was up 2% to 834 million shekels.

The company's cellular subscriber base climbed to 2.657 million in the quarter from 2.646 a year earlier.

Partner said its balance sheet puts the company in a position of strength compared with its competitors to face the coronavirus crisis, but it still sees a rough patch ahead.

"Regarding the coronavirus crisis, from the beginning of March 2020 the crisis began to have a harmful effect on our business, revenues and results from operations," said CFO Tamir Amar.

Amar cited a drop in revenue from roaming charges due to fewer international travellers and shopping mall closures that lead to lower equipment and services sales. In response, the company has cut costs and sent many employees home on unpaid leave.

Should the negative trends continue, Amar said, it "may have a material harmful effect on our results of operations and financial position for 2020."

The company said it had about 188,000 subscribers for its internet-based TV service at the end of the quarter and its fibre optics infrastructure has reached over 600,000 households.

Partner has received a buyout offer from Altice Europe's local subsidiary HOT. ($1 = 3.6168 shekels) (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Tova Cohen)

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