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2013 Leading Lights Finalists: Best Deal Maker

As ever, the past year has witnessed a bevvy of notable M&A deals that resulted in a strong list of submissions in the 2013 Leading Lights awards category for Best Deal Maker.

This award goes to the company that has made the most game-changing acquisition(s), signed up the smartest partner(s), or brokered deals that will disrupt their market.

After much deliberation and gnashing of teeth, we reached a shortlist of finalists. (See Light Reading's 2013 Leading Lights Finalists.)

So, without further ado, here are the five companies we've deemed worthy of picking up the award this year.

Arris Group Inc.
Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) closed its $2.2 billion acquisition of Motorola home in April, adding its set-top and modem business, video software platforms, and infrastructure group, and making it the biggest set-top supplier in the US and one of the top providers globally.

Combined, the two companies now reach 2,300 customers spanning 100 countries, and Moto has enabled Arris to reach new verticals such as telco, satellite, and programming networks. In the second quarter, Arris reported revenues of $1 billion, up from $349.3 million a year earlier when Arris stood alone.

With the Moto assets under its belt, Arris is on track to unseat Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) as the top earner in pay-TV STB revenue.

Cisco Systems Inc.
When Cisco realized the potential in small cells, it wasted no time in acquiring the companies it would need to break into the space. It bought Intucell in January for $475 million and followed up with the acquisition of Ubiquisys in April for $310 million.

Its purchase of Intucell, which develops self-optimizing network (SON) software, gives Cisco a direct line into the next-generation mobile strategy at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), an early mover in the use of SON technology for mobile network operations and management.

Ubiquisys gave Cisco an automatic entry into the 3G/WiFi combo small-cell market and the tools to start working on 4G versions.

The networking giant does have its work cut out in tackling the non-trivial task of building multimode small cells that include LTE, but with Ubiquisys and Intucell under its belt, it has the small-cell smarts to land significant deals that would normally go the way of the established radio access network (RAN) vendors.

Nokia Solutions and Networks
The company formerly known as Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) is now, er, NSN, or Nokia Networks . Its path to a new yet familiar identity was paved with some important deals that allowed it to shed businesses not related to its core focus of mobile broadband.

First, NSN sold its optical transport business, which is now part of Coriant. Then, it divested its BSS business to Redknee Inc. (Toronto TSX: RKN). Another 17 employees in the IPTV division transferred to Accenture , and 32 went to Belgacom SA (Euronext: BELG) as NSN dismantled its video operations.

Despite a drop in sales related to its restructuring process, NSN says the past year has been, in financial terms, the best in its history. It returned to stability, achieved profitability, and is preparing for growth and a greater focus now that Nokia is exiting the mobile handset market (still a rather surreal turn of events -- see Nokia Sells Devices Business to Microsoft and The Nokia/Microsoft Conspiracy Theory).

Oracle Corp.
Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) confirmed its role as a serious player in the telecom systems market not once, but twice, this year with its acquisitions of session border control vendor Acme Packet and signaling/policy specialist Tekelec.

The deals not only took Oracle into the telecom infrastructure market for the first time but gave it a position in one of the hottest areas of the industry: Its $1.7 billion purchase of Acme Packet in January gave it a foothold in network functions virtualization (NFV), which it consolidated in March with the purchase of Tekelec.

As a result of the deals, Oracle's Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) portfolio now includes network signaling, unified communications, policy control, and subscriber data management solutions. It is not only well positioned to help operators tackle challenges at the core of their network, such as deploying 4G voice services over IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), but it's now also a formidable competitor to the established equipment vendors. It's probably fair to say that Oracle is now the biggest SPIT company in the world.

Raco Wireless
Raco Wireless may be the smallest name on our list, but it's certainly growing fast. After a major investment by private equity firm Inverness Graham in October, the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications connectivity provider set out on its goal to buy up or partner with as many companies as it can to build an end-to-end offering to support its customers.

Those deals include the acquisition of location-based services provider Position Logic, a partnership with asset monitoring company iMetrik, and carrier agreements with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), and Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI)

In addition to its initial deal with T-Mobile US Inc. , Raco's new carrier deals give its customers access to CDMA and GSM networks in the US with the two operators that have committed to keeping 2G around, as well as networks in Canada, and Europe.

Are there any deal makers that you would have liked to have seen on the shortlist? Feel free to duke it out in the comments section.

The Leading Lights winners and latest Hall of Fame inductees will be revealed at the Leading Lights awards dinner, which will be held during the evening of Tuesday, October 1 at the tragically hip The Out hotel in New York City. (For more details, see Leading Lights 2013.)

Not to be outshone, the Ethernet & SDN Expo takes place at the Javits Center, NYC, on October 2–3. (Details and the agenda are on our show site, Ethernet & SDN Expo.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

DOShea 9/19/2013 | 9:03:03 PM
Oracle I find Oracle's deals really intriguing. This a company that could have acquired its way into any segment of telecom years ago, but instead has been very step-wise and strategic about what it felt was worth owning in telecom.
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