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Unstrung tracks the top M&A deals of 2009 that reshaped the wireless industry

Top 10: Mobile M&A Mania

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
12/21/2009
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The wireless equipment supplier and service provider landscape will look a lot different in 2010 after all the wheeling and dealing that went on in 2009.

While M&A action in the first half of the year was sluggish, telecom companies loosened their purse strings in the second half of the year to get into new products and markets, bolster market share, and thwart their competitors from doing the same. (See Telecom M&A Deals Hit $88.3B in H1 and European Carriers Catch M&A Fever.)

The fate of Nortel Networks Ltd. 's wireless assets was one of the most-watched developments of the year, but not all of the big transactions this year involved picking up pieces from the bankrupt Canadian vendor. (See Nortel: What's Left on the Shelf?)

We've highlighted the most significant deals of the year here, starting at the beginning of 2009:

  • March 3 -- Harris Stratex Snaps Up Telsima for $12M. The microwave backhaul specialist kicked off the wireless equipment M&A action this year when it snapped up Telsima Corp. in a $12 million bargain. The deal gave Harris Stratex Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: HSTX) its own WiMax product portfolio and entry into some emerging markets. (See Backhaul Player Guns for WiMax.)

  • July 25 -- Nortel Wireless Winner: It's Ericsson! The Swedish giant dramatically acquired Nortel's CDMA and LTE assets for $1.13 billion, snatching the prized North American business from Nokia Networks 's grasp by outbidding the Finnish-German company in the asset auction. The result: Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has cemented its position in North America, and Nokia Siemens is still smarting from the blow. (See Ericsson Delivers Knockout Blow to NSN, Ericsson: Why We Want Nortel's Wireless, Interview: Ericsson's CDMA Chief, Spradley: Nokia Siemens Will Be an LTE Leader, and NSN CEO: Don't Write Our Obituary.)

  • September 8 -- T-Mobile, Orange Join Forces in UK. Across the pond in the U.K., the long, drawn-out speculation finally ended over the fate of T-Mobile (UK) 's troubled operations when Orange UK and T-Mobile said they would create a joint venture company in the country. In one fell swoop, Orange and T-Mobile -- the third and fourth-placed mobile laggards by market share -- will become the largest U.K. mobile operator by subscribers with 28.4 million mobile customers when the deal is done.

  • September 11 -- DoCoMo to Buy Content Delivery Specialist. Japan's No. 1 mobile operator made a push into international content delivery with the acquisition of German value-added services specialist Net Mobile AG for $60.8 million.

  • October 13 -- Cisco to Buy Starent for $2.9B. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s eye-watering $2.9 billion offer for mobile core specialist Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) left no doubt of the IP vendor's intentions to be at the heart of next-generation mobile broadband networks. The acquisition will certainly make Starent's mobile packet core rivals -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and Nokia Siemens -- sit up and take note. (See LTE Core Action Heats Up.)

  • October 22 -- Core Blimey! Tellabs Buys WiChorus. Just days after Cisco's big offer for Starent, Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) sought to beef up its mobile packet core capability with the acquisition of WiChorus Inc. for $180 million. The move pounded home the point about the strategic importance of the mobile packet core.

  • October 26 -- Hitachi Takes Nortel's LTE Packet Core. For a mere $10 million, Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA) snapped up the Nortel's LTE packet core assets, which the two companies had been working on together for KDDI Corp. in Japan.

  • November 9 -- Google Buys AdMob for $750M. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) stretched its mobile-advertising tentacles further with the acquisition of AdMob Inc. The move will complement the search giant's mobile search advertising with AdMob's Web and application display advertising capabilities for mobiles.

  • November 20 -- Moto Snaps Up RadioFrame Assets. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) added RadioFrame Networks Inc. 's iDEN base station business to its Home & Networks Mobility unit for an undisclosed sum. The news sparked questions about the status of RadioFrame's femtocell chip business. (See RadioFrame's Mystery Femto Buyer and Broadcom's Still Mum on Femtocells.)

  • November 25 -- Ericsson Buys Nortel's GSM Biz Too. Ericsson tidied up its North American wireless position with the acquisition of Nortel's GSM business for $70 million.

    — Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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