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Cellcom Nears U.S. Debut

TEL AVIV -- Cellcom, Israel's largest cellular-phone carrier, hopes to raise more than $300 million through an initial public offering that will see the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company plans to issue 19 million shares at an estimated price of $16 to $18 each, and Cellcom will likely begin U.S. trading within the next few days under the symbol CEL. That price range would value the IPO between $304 million and $342 million.

Underwriting the sale is Goldman Sachs, which also owns 5% of the company, along with Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, Merrill Lynch, Jefferies and William Blair & Co. The underwriters will have the option to purchase 2.85 million additional shares to cover overallotments.

Cellcom, which operates cellular-phone networks across Israel, has about 2.8 million subscribers, giving it a market share of roughly 34%. The company has recently started providing 3.5G services such as video and music content streaming and high-speed Internet.

According to documents Cellcom has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it expects to have tallied revenue of about $1.3 billion in 2006, compared with $1.1 billion in 2005. Operating income grew 38% year over year to about $227.

In a recent research note to investors, UBS analysts Darren Shaw and Joseph Wolf state that the offering is "attractively priced" and should bring more investors in to the Israeli cellular market.

Cellcom and Partner Communications (PTNR), the second-largest cellular company by customer base, are the two major cell-phone rivals in Israel. Shares of Partner, a unit of Hutchison Telecommunications (HTX), added 25% over the last three months as the hype built around Cellcom's approaching IPO.

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