Nortel may now sell off its patents

Thursday, February 11, 2010

TORONTO - Nortel, under liquidation to pay off its debtors, Thursday hinted at selling its huge inventory of 4,000 patents related to cutting-edge, next-generation wire technology. The 125-year-old Canadian icon, which was once the world’s top telecom equipment maker, has been selling its various businesses to pay off its debtors since June last year.

The Toronto-based company had filed for bankruptcy in the US and Canada in January last year after suffering huge losses and mounting debt.

Nortel, which faces a long-term debt of $4.5 billion and owes billions to its suppliers and pensioners, has so far raised $3 billion by selling its major businesses.

In a statement here Thursday on its on-going liquidation, Nortel said, “While numerous milestones have been met, significant work remains to be completed.”

The company said it is now “focused on a number of key actions, including the completion of announced sales and the sale of remaining businesses and assets, as well as exploring strategic alternatives to maximize the value of the company’s intellectual property (over 4,000 patents).”

The patents for its next-generation wireless technology - called long-term evolution (LTE) - are being eyed by a number of competitors, including Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM) and Nokia.

Though Nortel has not yet announced on patent sales, media reports have hinted that the company might auction them like its major businesses or offer them under long-tem agreements or enter into a joint venture with new partners.

Nortel’s patent inventory has been estimated to be worth about $1 billion. Though the company announced last year not to sell its patents, it may be forced to do now to raise the remaining debt and meet pension claims.

As part of its liquidation, Nortel has already sold its next-generation wireless business to Sweden’s Ericsson for $1.13 billion, its enterprise division to America’s Avaya Inc. for $900 million, and its optical networking and carrier Ethernet business to the US network specialist Ciena Corp for $769 million.

At its height, Nortel employed more than 90,000 people worldwide and accounted for more than a third of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Filed under: Economy

will not be displayed