In a surprise move Sunday, Bezeq CEO Avi Gabay announced he will be stepping down after heading the company for nearly six years. He will stay on the job for up to six more months until a successor is found and an orderly transition is implemented, the company qualified.

But analysts following the company were unhappy about his departure.

"Gabay's leaving leaves Bezeq as a ship without a captain during a challenging period," said Ilanit Sherf, telecommunications analyst at Psagot Investment House.

Gabay's departure comes at a time when major structural changes are in the offing for Bezeq and the domestic telecommunications industry over the coming year. Industry reforms have already brought tougher competition to mobile telephony, and additional changes ahead will increase competition in Bezeq's other major businesses.

It is highly likely that Gabay's successor will be chosen from among Bezeq's other top-level executives, who include CFO and Deputy CEO David Mizrahi, CEO of Bezeq International Isaac Benbenisti, CEO of Yes Ron Eilon, and Deputy CEO Ran Guron.

But Stella Handler, who announced her resignation just late last week as chairwoman of Bezeq's rival Hot, might also vie for the position if she's not subject to a cooling-off period before joining the competition.

Gabay himself was promoted to CEO from within Bezeq. After leaving the Finance Ministry he joined the company, as vice-president for economics before being appointed CEO of Bezeq International in 2003. In 2006, Gabay took over as Bezeq's CEO after his predecessor, Jacob Gelbard, became embroiled in a stock option scandal.