Alcatel in M&A Frenzy

It's Va Va Voom on Vendredi for Alcatel as it buys two SIP system vendors and sells its power systems unit

September 17, 2004

3 Min Read
Alcatel in M&A Frenzy

Whatever happened to a slow Friday? Ask Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). The French firm bottled up a whole bunch of news and then popped its cork this morning by announcing three M&A deals and a sassy IP TV deal in Russia (see Alcatel Lands Spatial for $250M, Alcatel Acquires eDial, Spatial Wireless, Alcatel to Sell Power Systems Unit, and Alcatel Lands Russian IP TV Deal ).

(Reports that CEO Serge Tchuruk now has writer's cramp following a furious spell of contract signing were completely made up by this story's author.)

En masse, the market read the news and reckoned it was positive stuff. Alcatel's share price rose 27 cents, more than 2 percent, to $12.19 this morning.

Here's what happened:

  • First off, Alcatel bagged a pretty important wireless infrastructure acquisition when it agreed to buy mobile softswitch vendor Spatial Wireless in a stock deal worth $250 million. For the full story, visit Unstrung.

  • Next up, the acquisition of SIP applications server vendor eDial Inc., which strengthens Alcatel's hand with enterprise and carrier customers. The French firm is forking out about $27 million (mostly in stock, with a bit of cash thrown in) for the conferencing and collaboration software firm.

    Multimedia conferencing is in demand from corporates, and eDial has developed a solid SIP-based system that's already in use by more than 100 customers, about two thirds of which are enterprises, says Jean-Christophe Giroux, president of Alcatel's Enterprise Solutions activities.

    The other 33 percent, the service provider customers, use eDial's server-based software to provide services such as multimedia conferencing, with instant messaging and presence features, on a hosted basis, a service well understood by suppliers and users alike (see eDial Launches SIP Comms Server). And there's a strong belief that service providers can profit from the deployment of such SIP-based systems (see Heavy Reading Sees Money in SIP).

    Giroux says the eDial team, about 30 people, will act as the "Alcatel-wide competency center for conferencing," and that the software products developed by eDial sit neatly within his company's existing Unified Communications suite that is marketed to corporate users.

    He adds that this acquisition ends a year-long process, during which Alcatel had examined various options that would give it a collaboration system, whether through a partnership, OEM deal, or acquisition. "We always had a sweet spot for eDial, as it's a software-only SIP system that, like many of our other applications, only requires the user to have a Web browser."He adds that by acquiring eDial, Alcatel can now best exploit the future development potential of the eDial team to Alcatel's best advantage, and that the deal also "fits well into our carrier strategy" of providing value-added applications that service providers can use to quickly generate revenues.

    Alcatel is taking 100 percent control of the firm from its VC backers Atlas Venture, Greylock, and Matrix Partners, which had invested about $30 million in eDial.

  • But it's not all spend-spend-spend, you know! Continuing with its strategy to offload non-core assets, Alcatel has flogged its power systems unit to private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC for an undisclosed sum. 'Nuff said.

  • Away from the M&A action, Alcatel scored a €5 million deal in the increasingly competitive TV-over-DSL sector with Russian operator Sistema JSFC. News of the deal comes days after Alcatel's archrival in this sector announced a trial at Telecom Italia SpA (NYSE: TI). (See Microsoft IPTV: Now That's Italian!.)

    The market for systems that allow carriers to deliver video on demand and TV services across broadband access connections is becoming red hot, as witnessed by the flurry of activity at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) 2004 tradeshow last week (see Video Smokes in Amsterdam).

  • Now Alcatel is gearing up to make further news announcements at the Broadband World Forum Europe 2004 in Venice, which kicks off Monday. And if the city hasn't sunk by the beginning of next week, we'll be reporting on that news, and the rest of the comings and goings, as they happen.

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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