Baby Breaker Birth Announcements

Welcome back to Baby Breakerdom! This week's quest to find budding Rule Breakers finds a new program to prevent patent throwdowns, a deal that proves there are still millions to be made in plain vanilla Internet access, and the return of Baby Breaker IPOs.

We kick off this week with IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) . Hardly a Baby Breaker itself, Big Blue is granting access to its portfolio of 40,000 patents to venture capital (VC) firms in its partner network, according to VentureWire. The cost? $25,000 for early-stage firms with revenue under $10 million. More mature firms pay a 1% royalty fee.

That seems like an extraordinary deal, especially in light of the hundreds of millions at stake in the patent brouhaha that's clouding the future of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) . It's also an easy way to keep IBM's lawyers focused on meatier projects -- like, you know, the paperwork involved with all those patent applications.

Next, it's on to New Edge Networks -- a broadband Internet access provider for businesses that was acquired by EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK  ) this week for roughly $144 million in cash and stock, according to VentureWire. Besides the hardy employees who survived job cuts during 2000 and 2001, the winners in this deal are New Edge's VC shareholders, including Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) , Accel Partners, Crosspoint Venture Partners, and Greylock Partners.

After weeks of silence, it was suddenly a very busy week in Baby Breaker public offerings. First up this week is Spansion -- a joint venture of Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) and Fujitsu, which specializes in NOR flash memory chips that power digital cameras, cell phones, and MP3 players. This morning, the chip maker is expected to release 39.2 million shares to the public for between $13 and $14 per stub, which would raise approximately $493 million. (Editor's note: Shares were eventually priced at $12.)

That's down from earlier projections of $16 to $18 per share, which would have brought in more than $600 million in proceeds. But no one should be surprised. Spansion, after all, hasn't done much in the way of profitable business recently. Indeed, on the whole, the former AMD unit has been rapidly deteriorating.

Take cash flow, for example. According to this filing with the SEC, Spansion booked $324 million in capital expenditures for the first nine months of 2005, which was down substantially from $427 million over the same period last year. But operating cash flow hasn't been able to keep pace. It's come in at a mere $221 million thus far during 2005, putting free cash flow (FCF) at negative $103 million to date. This time last year, Spansion had generated $15 million in FCF. No wonder institutions are treating these shares like my five-year-old son treats girls with cooties.

Next up is Buy.com, which was such a dog of a stock that it had to be taken private in 2001 after destroying billions in shareholder value. The SEC filing doesn't make it clear exactly when the "new" company will begin trading, although this useful IPO calendar from MarketWatch lists this week as the target. There's also no mention of an offering price, but the S-1 says the company owes Buy.com founder Scott Blum $9.6 million and that it intends to use the proceeds from 4.2 million new shares to retire that debt. Do the math, and you'll find that amounts to a minimum price of $2.30 per stub.

Finally, Suntech Power (NYSE: STP  ) , a Chinese maker of photovoltaic cells for converting solar energy into electricity, debuted Wednesday at $15 per stub, then closed 41% higher, at $21.20. Perhaps investors are finally warming up to the idea of harnessing ultraviolet rays for more than a nice suntan?

That's all for this week, which means it's time to say good bye. See you back here next Friday, when we continue the quest for the next ultimate growth stock.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers can say officially that he's never, ever had a real suntan. Really. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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