Hutchison Whampoa has lifted its investment in Israel after agreeing to raise its stake in mobile company Partner Communications for US$62.41 million. In a separate move, Pacific Century CyberWorks said it was no longer interested in bidding for a controlling stake in Israel's national telephone company, Bezeq Israel Telecom. The Hutchison purchase comes at a time of unrest in the Middle East, with Israelis and Palestinians locked in conflict. A Hutchison spokesman said: 'Hutchison is happy to increase its stake as its [Partner's] management has consistently performed in difficult conditions, and Hutchison is confident in the future prospects of the company.' Hutchison said it had entered into a conditional agreement with Matav-Cable Systems Media, a 15.2 per cent owner of Partner, to buy a 7.7 per cent stake, or 13.77 million shares, in Israel's No 2 mobile company. After the transaction, Hutchison's stake will be lifted to 42.7 per cent. Matav's holding will fall to 7.5 per cent. The stake will be sold at about US$4.53 a share. Partner closed at US$4.05 on Wednesday, or 68.84 per cent lower than its initial offering price of US$13 in 1999. The agreement is subject to conditions which must be met by April 18, including approval from Israel's Communications Ministry and creditor Bank Hapoalim. It is not clear whether Hutchison will buy out Matav's remaining stake in Partner, the only GSM (global system for mobile communications) operator in Israel. Last year, Partner, listed on Nasdaq in the United States and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, had a subscriber base of 1.4 million, up 75 per cent from 2000. Daiwa analyst Jonas Kan said the Israel mobile unit had achieved an operating profit and could turn a net profit as soon as this year. 'Partner is not a bad company, and the relative investment size is not a significant size to Hutchison,' said Mr Kan, who added Hutchison had a record of buying stakes from strategic partners in its other businesses. In February, Hutchison Whampoa and CyberWorks were believed to be among six firms to express interest in bidding for a majority stake in Bezeq, which the Israeli Government wants to privatise. But a CyberWorks spokesman said yesterday: 'We prefer to explore opportunities closer to home.'