Nokia and Siemens dance, Nortel jilted

Poor old Nortel Networks — or “No-tell Networks,” as one wag dubbed it after the fourth or fifth time the company had to restate its earnings. It was bad enough when the company flamed out so quickly after becoming the king of the Toronto Stock Exchange (and of many people’s investment portfolios), but then that was followed by the repeated financial restatements, the firing of senior executives, and so on. Then there was the whole Bill Owens fiasco, in which the former Navy officer did virtually nothing to move the company forward, and in fact arguably set it back (by hiring two senior Cisco executives and then quickly showing them the door).

The end result is that Nortel has been unable to make much headway in the telecom or networking equipment market, and that hasn’t changed much lately, despite the best efforts of Mike Zafirovski, the new CEO. Now, the company finds itself even further behind, with the reported merger of the networking arms of Finland-based cellphone giant Nokia and German telecom equipment vendor Siemens AG. The deal as described would create a $30-billion equipment supplier that would rank up there with Lucent/Alcatel. And it removes the possibility of Nokia merging with Nortel, an idea that was recently floated by analyst Gus Papageorgiou.

It’s not surprising that Nokia would choose Siemens over Nortel, if it ever even considered a similar merger with the Canadian company. A history of financial restatements, allegations of improper behaviour by executives, lawsuits flying left and right including class-action lawsuits, and products that have fallen further and further behind the competition over the past few years. Not a great bio if you’re looking for a hot date with one of the telecom industry’s leading players. Nortel has raised even more question marks with some of its recent moves, including a short-lived partnership with China’s Huawei.

So now it seems that a merger with Nokia is off the table, and Siemens is also off the market. Who does that leave for Nortel to pair up with — Ericsson? Motorola? Mark Evans has some more thoughts here. I think Mike Z. had better put on his dancing shoes and start thumbing through that little black book.

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