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Leading Lights: Best Deal Maker

2:20 PM -- The pace of mergers picked up during the past couple of years, and the size, scope, and ambition of some of those deals has moved up the scale as well.

In considering finalists for the 2010 Light Reading Leading Lights Awards, the Deal Maker category was easy pickings. Companies saw the opportunity to change an industry sector -- or felt the desperation of needing to improve their own lot -- and made some bold moves.

Technically, the category isn't just about mergers; a shrewd spinoff or financing would have been eligible, too. But the merger pool was rich, and it provided us with eight finalists and some strong runners-up.

  • Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) -- The ProgrammableWeb and OpenPlug deals might seem small, but they reflect Ben Verwaayen's sermons about AlcaLu's future lying in application enablement. That's the kind of forward thinking we're looking for. (See AlcaLu CEO Ben Verwaayen, Part II.)

  • Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) -- After two failed tries at gaining purchase in Africa, Bharti goes big, offering $10.87 billion to acquire Zain Group and become the world's fifth biggest mobile operator. (See Bharti Secures $10.7B African Acquisition.)

  • CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) -- Another Big-Sky deal to change the face of a company. Feels as huge as Nebraska going to the Big 10. (See Qwest, CenturyLink Plan $22.4B Marriage, The Final Qwest?, and Top 5 Things to Know About CenturyLink & Qwest.)

  • Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) -- There's reason to doubt the wisdom of its purchase of the Nortel Metro Ethernet Networks business, but it was a bold move and a gamble that some say Ciena needed to make. Bonus points for drama. (See Smith: Why Ciena Wants to Reign Over MEN , Nortel's MEN: Winners & Losers, Gary Smith, CEO, Ci-MEN-a, and The Case for Ciena/Nortel.)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- And not just because Cisco always gets considered in this category. The acquisition of Starent elevated Cisco's standing in mobile networks, strengthening its foothold in a crucial sector -- while also snatching a partner away from Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), by most accounts. We keep hearing praise for Cisco's purchase of CoreOptics, as well. (See Cisco to Buy Starent for $2.9B, Cisco/Starent Deal Hurts Juniper, and Cisco Renews Optical Focus With CoreOptics.)

  • Paetec Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: PAET) -- This isn't about the $460 million purchase of Cavalier Telephone Inc. It's about Paetec buying a voice/video systems integrator (Quagga) and an electric utility (US Energy Partners). That's just weird. But we're interpreting the moves as a fresh, innovative plan to avoid dumb-pipe status. (See Paetec Buys Cavalier Broadband.)

  • Tekelec -- The acquisitions of Blueslice and Camiant suggest that Tekelec sees its future in software, with policy control and subscriber management ruling the day.

  • Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) -- We're awarding Windstream for a body of work in the Tier 2/3 consolidation sphere. In the past two years, it's acquired (chronologically) Lexcom, NuVox, Iowa Telecommunications Services, Kentucky Data Link, and Norlight. (See Tellabs on a Roll.)

    We had to draw the line somewhere, and it's worth noting that Genband Inc. came very close to making the cut. Like Ciena, Genband hopes to dramatically change its standing in the industry after buying a chunk of Nortel. (See Genband Bids $282M for Nortel's VoIP Unit, Charles Vogt, CEO, Genband, Genband CEO Sees Opportunity in a Complex Deal, and The New Genband: Day One.)

    Any others we missed? The message board is open.

    — Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

  • Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:22:11 PM
    re: Leading Lights: Best Deal Maker

    Another one we considered here was Nokia. Some interesting little acquisitions, but I don't know... it feels more like a catchup story, and less like a big-picture strategy.  Or am I underestimating them?

    digits 12/5/2012 | 4:22:05 PM
    re: Leading Lights: Best Deal Maker

    what's interesting, for me, is whether the M&A strategies are based on positive expansion or fear-fuelled desperation. I like the former a lot more.... 

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