Nortel CEO downplays reports about selling assets
Nortel's CEO downplayed media reports Thursday that indicate his company is in talks to sell off the majority of its business.
In an internal memo leaked to CTV Ottawa, Mike Zafirovski said the company is considering many options to pay down its massive debt.
"The restructuring of Nortel is a complex process that requires thoughtful analysis of the various possible paths open to us," Zafirovski wrote.
In a report on its website Wednesday night, the Wall Street Journal said the Toronto-headquartered company -- which gets most of its revenue from outside Canada -- has been able to attract interest in the sale of its two core businesses, which posted a combined US$6.7 billion in sales last year.
An unnamed source told the paper the company has found more value in selling the assets, and was surprised by the amount of interest generated by the two operations.
However, Nortel has declined to make a comment on the report to both the media and employees.
"Typically, we do not comment on rumors in the media, and I will not do it here either," Zafirovski wrote in his memo to staff.
"As I have said before - and which the Journal story also emphasizes - there is much still to be done and decided. As soon as we are able to share more information with you - including our go-forward plan - I assure you, we will."
If Nortel does choose to sell its two main businesses, at least one industry expert says the company could survive as a stronger, but significantly smaller, Nortel.
"Although it will be a very different company if it sold its wireless business, it would still have good assets that are more than capable of supporting a restructured Nortel as a stand-alone technology company," said Duncan Stewart, director of research and analysis at DSam Consulting.
He says Nortel faces "a very delicate balancing act" because it will have to determine which parts of the business have interested buyers, but aren't crucial to the company's future survival.
"You don't want to sell all the good stuff and be left with trying to build a company around all the stuff that nobody else wants," Stewart said.
He said getting rid of the wireless division "is a complete no-brainer."
"It's producing a lot of revenues and earnings right now but it is absolutely not the future of any company," Stewart said.
Nortel shares fell 1.5 cents to 8.5 cents at the Toronto Stock Exchange shortly after trading began Thursday. The company's shares, prior to a 10-for-one stock consolidation, were once worth more than the equivalent $1,200 in mid-2000.
The Journal said that Nortel has held talks with potential buyers including Avaya Inc., which is backed by a private-equity consortium, and Siemens Enterprise Communications, a joint venture of Siemens AG of Germany and Gores Group LLC, quoting sources familiar with the matter.
Nortel also is in talks to sell the unit that sells wireless voice gear to rivals, including Nokia Siemens Networks, which long has sought to expand its presence in the United States. Nokia Siemens is a joint venture of Nokia Corp. of Finland and Siemens, the paper reported.
With a report from The Canadian Press