The acquisition of Ascend by Lucent has put a premium on the remaining wide area networking (WAN) vendors as consolidation continues to carve up the industry. The Lucent/Ascend merger has led to speculation that other acquisitions within this sector loom large on the horizon.
Top of the list of likely acquisition candidates are ATM switching vendors, Newbridge Networks and Fore Systems. I don’t see Newbridge being taken over in the next 30 to 60 days, but there is a fair chance that one of Lucent’s competitors, Ericsson or Siemens, will acquire it, says Paul Silverstein, a communications equipment analyst at Banc Boston Robertson Stephens. Both companies are executing well and Fore in particular has a strong core business which make it attractive, he added.
Although Newbridge vehemently denies it is up for sale, speculation still persists that the Canadian WAN vendor could fall to Alcatel. Newbridge and Alcatel would be a reasonable fit as Alcatel divests. It also has a reasonable presence in North America, says Jim Slaby, an analyst at Giga Information Group.
Rumors that Newbridge is priming itself to be purchased have not been helped by the fact the company has recently divested itself of three businesses. It has disposed of several start-up ventures including remote access company, ACC which it sold to Ericsson; voice-over-IP developer Vienna which is now owned by Nokia; and fiber optic specialist Cambrian, which is now part of the Nortel fold.
Observers speculate that this is part of the organization’s scheme to clear the decks of non-core interests to make it attractive for potential buyers. Newbridge has dismissed the sell-offs as pure coincidence. The start-ups were either sold, floated or purchased by the company because it was time to take advantage of the consolidation fever within the industry, says Chris Albinson, assistant vice president of the Newbridge’s affiliate program.
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