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2012 Leading Lights Finalists: Best Deal Maker

Ray Le Maistre

11:20 AM -- Which companies have struck the best M&A or partnership deals in the past year?

That's the question we asked ourselves when looking through the entries in the Light Reading 2012 Leading Lights Best Deal Maker category and compiling our shortlist. Before we get into the profiles, just a reminder that you can see the full list of Leading Lights finalists here (free registration required). The Leading Lights Awards and Light Reading Hall of Fame winners will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the Manhattan Penthouse in New York City.

So, in no particular order, let's look at the five finalists for Best Deal Maker.

Verizon Communications, for its AWS spectrum acquisitions
OK, so this is a bit different, but it's an asset acquisition of major importance in one of the key mobile services markets in the world.

In August the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) the green light to acquire Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum from four cable operators in a deal valued at $3.9 billion.

With spectral capacity so important for the development of mobile broadband services, this move is something of a game-changer for Verizon in its ongoing battle with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) for wireless dominance in the U.S. market.

Cisco, for the acquisitions of NDS and BNI Video
It's no secret that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) sees video as the application that will shape the services and network planning/management landscape in the coming years, so it makes sense for the IP infrastructure giant to make use of its financial firepower to boost its video capabilities.

Whether anyone saw the $5 billion acquisition of NDS coming down the pipe is another matter. The deal was sprung on the market in March and completed in July, giving Cisco deeper video-centric relationships with the service providers that use NDS's security and conditional-access software and expanding the international reach of its growing video systems empire.

Cisco had already shown its willingness to splash its cash on video assets with the purchase late last year of BNI Video, a specialist in video back-office and analytics capabilities, for $99 million.

Ericsson, for the acquisitions of BelAir and Telcordia
Mobile small cells and Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) are two of the hottest technology areas in telecom right now and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) acquired additional capabilities in both during the past year.

The purchase of BelAir gives Ericsson the Carrier Wi-Fi capabilities that every major wireless infrastructure vendor should have in its arsenal these days, while buying Telcordia Technologies (a $1.15 billion deal that closed earlier this year) makes the Swedish vendor one of the world's major players in the increasingly important OSS/BSS and service delivery platform markets.

VMware, for the acquisition of Nicira
Wireless small cells and Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) may be hot, but software-defined networking (SDN) has the highest temperature of any tech topic currently.

So when VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) announced its intention to buy Nicira Networks Inc. , a startup only months old, for more than $1 billion, blood vessels were burst.

The fallout from that announcement is still ongoing, as the story links below show.

NEC/NetCracker, for the acquisition of Convergys IM
In case anyone hadn't noticed, NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) is serious about Service Provider IT (SPIT).

Having already bought Netcracker Technology Corp. for $300 million in 2008, it snapped up the activation business of Subex Ltd. and then added one of the giants of the billing and charging world with the $449 million purchase of Convergys Corp. (NYSE: CVG)'s Information Management telecom software business unit earlier this year.

That deal fleshed out its SPIT portfolio and confirmed its position as one of the most powerful and influential players in the telecom software market.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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