The team at Nokia Siemens Networks must be excited and trepidatious about 2013.
The company has found its groove since its major revamp (announced in 2011) and its focus on mobile network infrastructure, managed services and customer experience management (CEM) appears to be paying off. But co-owner Siemens AG wants out, and, according to a report this week, it is seeking buyers for its 50 percent stake. (See Euronews: NSN Raises €800M in Bond Sale and Has NSN Turned a Corner?)
This isn't a new development as such -- Siemens has long been focusing on other markets and various executives have talked publicly about wanting to focus on core industries (of which telecom infrastructure is not one).
What is new is that Siemens is now free to dispose of its stake as it pleases, as is Nokia Corp., though the latter isn't as likely to bail out as quickly as its German partner.
But who might be interested in a slice of NSN? There are only three options, in my view.
The first is that the Siemens stake (part or all of it) is floated on a public exchange. But it's too soon for that to happen: NSN needs more financial stability and a series of profitable quarters before that could be considered.
The second is private equity investment, most likely by a group of interested parties. There was little appetite for NSN in the private equity markets only a year or so ago but the company's fortunes now look brighter and a deal could be struck, though again this looks a more likely option in a year's time rather than immediately.
The third option is the most interesting -- a trade sale to a communications technology company with global ambitions. But there aren't many that could afford the estimated US$6 billion that half of NSN could command and not many for whom it would make sense.
So, although I am in danger of repeating myself, I suggest NEC as the company most likely. The argument is the same as presented in August 2012 here at Light Reading -- see Matchmaking NSN and Who's Going to Buy NSN? -- but now, in my view, the case is even stronger, given NEC's strength in the emerging and increasingly important areas of cloud service enablement, software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). (See MWC13 Hot Network Techs: NEC.)
It may be a long shot, but Nokia NEC Networks (NNN) would be a very interesting company indeed…
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading