June 19, 2009
The gloves are off: Nortel Networks Ltd. is now officially trying to sell all of its businesses.
This evening, Nortel announced a deal to sell some of its wireless assets to Nokia Networks for $650 million, the first major chunk of Nortel to land a buyer since the company went into restructuring. (See Nortel to Sell Wireless Assets to NSN and, if you somehow missed it, Nortel Files for Bankruptcy Protection.)
But the release adds that the company "is advancing in its discussions with external parties to sell its other businesses."
That does mean all other businesses, a spokesman confirms to Light Reading. But it doesn't necessarily mean Nortel, as an entity, is finished.
"Whether or not something would fall under the Nortel brand [after restructuring] would depend on the outcome of those deals," the spokesman says.
Nortel has simply decided that sell-offs are the best way to get top value for the company's technology, CEO Mike Zafirovski said in his written statement: "Maximizing the value of our businesses in the face of a consolidating global market has been our most critical priority. We have determined the best way to do this is to find buyers for our businesses who can carry Nortel innovation forward, while preserving employment to the greatest extent possible."
Since November, Nortel has been restructuring to create standalone business units, seeking "maximum flexibility to choose the ultimate path forward for each of the businesses." (See Nortel Culls 1,300 Jobs, Loses $3.4B.)But this appears to be the first time Nortel is saying that an outright sale is the best option in every case.
It's been presumed that Nortel is hearing offers for most of its major businesses anyway. (See Is Nortel M&A Near? and Is Nortel Prepping a Major Sale?)Separately, Nortel is applying to delist its shares from the Toronto Stock Exchange, having calculated that equity holders will probably get nothing out of the bankruptcy and restructuring processes.
Oh yeah, the NSN deal
The most eye-grabbing part of tonight's news, though, is the NSN deal, the first large piece of Nortel to be sold since October, when the company first offered up its Metro Ethernet Networks business. (See Nortel to Sell Carrier Ethernet, Optical Biz.)
An NSN purchase of the wireless assets had been speculated since April. (See NSN Linked to Nortel Asset Bid and Nortel M&A Plot Thickens.)
In addition to acquiring Nortel's CDMA business -- the second largest in the world -- and its LTE access assets, NSN would offer jobs to roughly 2,500 Nortel employees.
Because Nortel is in creditor protection, the NSN bid triggers an mandatory auction process. That's why the deal is set up as a "stalking horse" deal, allowing for the possibility of higher bids. Nortel had to go through this process before selling its Layers 4 through 7 business (the former Alteon) to Radware Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDWR) on April 1. (See Nortel to Offload Data Gear to Radware and Radware Completes Nortel Buy.)
NSN doesn't expect to be outbid, it seems. An NSN corporate blog entry already talks about "maintaining Nortel’s Ottawa site as a center of excellence," and NSN has set up a welcome page for Nortel employees that includes a hello video -- complete with a Canada vs. Finland hockey challenge -- from chief operating officer Mika Vehviläinen. (Bonus: You learn how to pronounce his name.)
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
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