Foreign shareholders in cellular operator Cellcom are considering bidding for control in Bezeq, Ma'ariv reports.

They are responding to a suggestion from investment bankers Merrill Lynch, hired to assist the state in the privatization process.

Partner Communications (Nasdaq, TASE:PTNR, LSE:PCCD) and its Hong Kong based controlling shareholder Hutchison-Whampoa received the same suggestion from Merrill Lynch. The Israeli consul in Hong Kong yesterday reported to Communication Minister Reuven Rivlin that Hutchison plans to look into the matter.

The Safra brothers and the American BellSouth Corporation (NYSE:BLS), shareholders in Cellcom, did not dismiss the idea and requested additional information, but it remains unclear whether the corporation itself or Cellcom will be reviewing the data.

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A source close to the talks confirmed Cellcom was indeed approached by Merrill Lynch, and indicated there is still a theoretical possibility Cellcom is not discussing it at the moment. In order for Cellcom to buy into Bezeq, said the source, Bezeq would have to sell its stake in competing cellular operator Pele-Phone Communications.