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Pace Ups Tempo With Bewan Buy

U.K.-based set-top box supplier Pace plc is truly setting the pace today in the pay TV market by announcing stellar full-year 2009 financial results, a new customer in Asia, and plans to buy French residential gateway vendor Bewan Systems SA .

Pace France has a conditional agreement to acquire Paris-based Bewan for up to €12.5 million (US$17 million) in cash. The move is significant because pay TV service providers are increasingly interested in advanced residential gateways that support broadcast as well as broadband content that is delivered via the Internet. (See Gateway to the Ultimate Prize: Customer Loyalty and Bewan Intros Home Gateway.)

Bewan's residential gateways support DSL as well as Docsis 3.0 IP connectivity. According to Pace, Bewan will add to its existing gateway business as well as bring additional capability to develop converged gateways. Pace may also find itself adding femtocell modules to residential gateways, since Bewan has developed such a product. (See Bewan Unveils iBox Femto.)

The Bewan deal marks Pace's latest sizeable acquisition. In 2008 it acquired the set-top and connectivity division of Royal Philips Electronics N.V. (NYSE: PHG; Amsterdam: PHI) for $135 million. (See Pace Buys Philips STB Biz, Pace Shoots for STB Stardom, and Philips Puts Down the Pace .)

As Pace announced plans to buy Bewan, the company also released its 2009 financial results, which were stellar. Pace's profits before tax in 2009 soared to £69.9 million ($104 million), up from £13.8 million ($20.6 million) in 2008. The company reported 2009 revenues of £1.1 billion ($1.6 billion), up from £745 million ($1.1 billion) in 2008.

The vendor's worldwide set-top boxes shipments in 2009 increased 31 percent to 17.2 million, up from 13.1 million in 2008. Screen Digest now ranks Pace as the second largest set-top box supplier to the pay TV industry. (See Pace Rises to No. 2 Set-Top Supplier.)

The majority of Pace's set-top box shipments were to the Americas region, where it delivered 9.7 million boxes (up from 7.3 million in 2008). The company delivered 6.2 million set-top boxes in Europe, up from 4.7 million in 2008, while it sent a further 1.3 million to the "rest of world" region, up from 1.1 million in 2008.

Pace also announced today its first high-definition (HD) service customer in Asia. Malaysia's Astro, a broadcaster and direct-to-home (DTH) satellite pay TV operator, will use Pace's DS830NA set-top box for the first HD service in the country.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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