Adtran Wants NSN's International Pull

Just two weeks ago, Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) was telling press and analysts it needs a way to expand into carriers outside the United States. Officials are hoping the Nokia Networks deal, announced Monday, provides the solution to this problem. (See Adtran to Buy NSN's Broadband Unit.)

Adtran "will be limited for some time if we stay inside U.S. borders," CEO Tom Stanton told analysts on a Monday-morning conference call. Adtran has been working on Tier 1 international accounts, of course, but it's been a slow "carrier by carrier" development as Adtran battles against big, ensconced vendors, he said.

Part of the benefit to acquiring NSN's fixed broadband product lines, therefore, was the acquisition of an international sales force. "We would have had to duplicate that if we were serious about going outside the U.S. -- and we are serious about going outside the U.S.," Stanton said.

Stanton said Adtran intends to keep selling the products it's getting from NSN, partly because they're built to suit the largest carriers, whereas Adtran's flagship, the Total Access 5000, was crafted with Tier 2 and 3 needs in mind.

He downplayed the difficulty of continuing to support multiple product platforms. Adtran already does that, for one thing. Stanton also noted that the majority of product development is on the software side these days, meaning the NSN and Total Access products can at least start new developments from a common base.

International business is important because Adtran has pretty much saturated the U.S. Tier 1 market.

At Adtran Connect, a conference for press and analysts in late November, Adtran officials said international business had grown to be about 10 percent of the company's total sales. That part of the business has grown rapidly in the past year, but Adtran officials admitted they were hoping for more.

Adtran, known for moving cautiously, doesn't want to approach the international market by selling low-cost products. So, in going international, the company is not making knee-jerk moves into China and India, Stanton said at Adtran Connect. Competition in China would be too difficult and would require big price concessions. And India is still working on basic broadband connectivity, a business Adtran isn't so interested in.

"When India gets to need 80 Mbit/s or 100 Mbit/s on broadband in their network topology, they'll call us," Stanton said in November.

NSN asked Adtran not to disclose the purchase price. On top of that, the price appears to be less than 10 percent of Adtran's revenues (which were about $700 million for the past four quarters). Stanton confirmed, in fact, that the NSN unit cost less than the acquisition of wireless startup Bluesocket.

Even so, the acquisition is a big deal for Adtran, which doesn't acquire much and certainly hasn't ever purchased anything this big. Adtran shares were down $2.18 (6.8%) at $30.04 in Monday-morning trading.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

digits 12/5/2012 | 4:46:44 PM
re: Adtran Wants NSN's International Pull

So Adtran CEO Tom Stanton says the NSN deal will cost less than the BlueSocket deal.

Well, from the recent 10Q SEC filing for the 3rd quarter... 

On August 4, 2011, we acquired all of the outstanding stock of Bluesocket, Inc., a provider of wireless network solutions with virtual control, for $23.8 million in cash.


So Adtran is getting a business with annual revenues of $140-180 million for les than $24 million? What does this say about the opex the business must be carrying?

Of course, it might just be good for both... NSN offloads opex for a nominal fee, Adtran pays out little upfront, takes on opex/staff and sees upside in extra international sales.   

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:46:43 PM
re: Adtran Wants NSN's International Pull

Adtran margins greatly exceed standard Access Networking margins (see Calix and DSC back in the day).  We had relatively high margins at AFC during the bulk of the business prior to FiOS (mid-40s).

So, margins should come up but expect that business to be in the 30s not 50s.


Edit:  Let me add Adtran has not yet run into the Chinese as they are basicually locked out of the US Access biz.  That will be the rudest of shocks, I think.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:46:43 PM
re: Adtran Wants NSN's International Pull

Yeah, Adtran got this business for a song, it looks like. Revenues are expected to decline a little bit, but it's still looking like an inexpensive deal.

The NSN stuff will eventually get migrated into Adtran's manufacturing environment, and that's supposed to bring the NSN margins up to par eventually, by Adtran standards. Until then, Adtran will be buying the gear from NSN at cost.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:46:39 PM
re: Adtran Wants NSN's International Pull

So true, about the Chinese vendors. This will be Adtran's first real taste of that battle.

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