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Optical/IP

Meriton Eyes IPO

PARIS -- Broadband World Forum Europe -- Specialist optical vendor Meriton Networks Inc. is planning an IPO in London or Toronto in 2007 to raise further growth capital, says CEO Mike Pascoe.

Responding to a question about potential further M&A activity, following Meriton's 2005 acquisition of ROADM specialist Mahi Networks, Pascoe said there weren't any detailed plans at present, but that a "listing next year" as a fund-raising exercise, or even another round of VC funding, was on the cards. (See Meriton Buys Mahi Networks.)

Meriton's most recent funding round was in June 2005, since then the vendor has announced a "major engagement" at Korean incumbent KT Corp. and a number of smaller deals. (See Meriton Raises $54M, Finds Good Company, Meriton Adds KT to BT, Meriton Wins Small Deals, PalmettoNet Deploys Meriton, and RBC Banks on Meriton.)

Those deals follow the company's involvement with BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), where Meriton is one of a number of partners involved in the carrier's next generation network, the 21CN, courtesy of Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd. , one of eight 21CN lead vendor partners. (See Fujitsu Shares Its 21CN Success.)
Talking outside the broadband show here in Paris, Pascoe said that with some of the initial stages of 21CN development now sorted and the first phase of the network about to go live in South Wales, that the prospects at BT "are going to become much more interesting next year."

Pascoe and his team will have a tough job. Long-time BT supplier Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. were chosen for that part of BT's new network. (See BT's 21CN Deals: Booty or Bloody? .)

But BT has already shown that's it's willing to make room for additional vendors and technologies beyond those initially selected in its preferred vendor selection announced in April 2005. (See BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers.)

Just last month the carrier noted that it might incorporate an Ethernet technology called PBT (provider backbone transport) into its core network plans, and not build out a pure, 100 percent IP/MPLS backbone. (See BT Rethinks 21CN Core Strategy.)

And the carrier's CTO Matt Bross noted earlier this year he was keeping his eye on new optical developments, and that the door wasn't closed to disruptive players such as Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) (See Infinera Numerates Its Numbers.)

Meanwhile, the BT engagement has been the catalyst for other European relationships, says Pascoe. "There have been some RFIs [requests for information] and RFPs [requests for proposal] we have responded to, but many of the carriers we have spoken to, such as Orange (NYSE: FTE), Telecom Italia (TIM) , Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), and Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT), want to know and understand how we are working with BT."

There are other opportunities too, with Tier 2 players and research networks, for example, but the competition is tough too. As well as Ciena and Huawei, ADVA Optical Networking and Transmode Systems AB are usually in the frame "for point to point deployments. Those are tough for us. We either have to go in very low on price or walk away. Our strength is in ring or mesh network topologies," notes the CEO.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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