I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
-- From "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
Just as we predicted when Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT ) filed for bankruptcy protection, the telecom equipment maker is getting more than a mere makeover. The competition is chopping it into pieces, each walking away with the bits that make sense for them. It's the end of Nortel as we know it. How do you feel?
The herd of hungry would-be buyers, according to The Wall Street Journal, is led by telecom infrastructure operation Nokia Siemens Networks, which is run jointly by (surprise!) Finnish telecom Brobdingnagian Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and German technology giant Siemens AG (NYSE: SI ) . If these deals work out, it'll give Siemens and Nokia a strong presence -- which they currently lack -- in the North American market. The Europeans are coming!
Nokia Siemens prefers (again, surprise!) Nortel's wireless products and services. Separately, Siemens Enterprise Communications is bidding for Nortel's business telecom assets. Bidders for these and other parts of Nortel's carcass include Genband, a nonpublic business in which Alcatel Lucent (NYSE: ALU ) owns a significant stake, and privately held Avaya.
The leaders in data and voice communications equipment don't seem to care for Nortel's leftovers, though. Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) is not interested, and LM Ericsson's (Nasdaq: ERIC ) name didn't come up, either.
Unfortunately, it looks like Nortel investors will be left holding the bag. Company spokesman Jay Barta says that Nortel wants to "provide maximum benefit to our key stakeholders, including our creditors, customers and employees." Notice that "shareholders" is not part of that list.
Nortel's liabilities outweigh the assets by about $4 billion. Keep in mind that Nortel sports a market cap of roughly $100 million now -- less than one-thousandth of its glory-day peaks above the $200 billion mark.
Do you see any combination of chop-shop sales adding up to that large a premium? I sure don't. But the stock popped some 20% on this news, in spite of these major issues that spell "no value" to me in large, red letters. If you’re in the unenviable position of holding leftover shares, sell them today while you have the chance to benefit from this irrational spike.