Saturday, June 04, 2005

Nortel: A Buyer, Not a Seller

Mark Evans




For all the consolidation among U.S. carriers, there has been no action among equipment makers even though competition is fierce and margins are being squeezed as multiple players fight for new deals. During an apperance at Lethman Brothers Wireless and Wireline Conference, Nortel CEO Bill Owens was bluntly asked if the company shouldn't put itself up for sale - given the fact business is so tough suppliers like Nortel have to heavily subsidize new customers (BSNL in India) just to win access to wireless customers spending $6 a month. While conceding consolidation is an industry necessity, he said Nortel's well positioned so selling out is not an attractive option. "Our eyes are wide open about the opportunities. As you can imagine with my background in the military, I am not afraid of strategy of establishing global leadership. I don't think for good of Nortel shareholders, it is the right thing to sell." Given this stance, what does Nortel do? With its financial house in order Nortel can now use stock as currency to make acquisitions. Owens has made it clear Nortel is intent on staying in the enterprise business so perhaps a deal in this area is likely. You wonder whether there's a deal to be in services or security - two of the new strategic areas that have emerged from Nortel since Owens took the helm last year.

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