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Nortel $4.5bn patent sale to Apple, Microsoft, others approved

13 июля 2011

Judges in the U.S. and Canada Monday gave the nod to a $4.5 billion patent sale that marks a shift in the balance of power in the technology wars over mobile applications and a major improvement in the fortunes of creditors of Nortel Networks Corp.

The sale of Nortel's portfolio of technology patents means the liquidating telecommunications maker will have more than $7.5 billion in cash to cover its bills, a few billion more than anyone expected just weeks ago. A four-day auction in New York closed with a price five times the stalking-horse bid, sending the prices on Nortel's bonds above 100 cents on the dollar.

"It's been record-breaking both in term of this case and in the patent industry generally," said Lisa Schweitzer, an attorney for Nortel, speaking at a joint hearing of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Research in Motion Ltd., EMC Corp., L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., and Sony Corp. will divide Nortel's trove of intellectual property among themselves. They drove up the bidding at a four-day bankruptcy auction where they vied with Google Inc., Intel Corp. and RPX Corp.

Nortel's patents, they hope, will help them build strongholds in the mobile wireless industry. Schweitzer, who's with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, dismissed speculation that the sale was vulnerable to attack as anti-competitive.

"There's no antitrust risk to the deal," she told Judge Kevin Gross in the U.S. and Justice Geoffrey Morawetz in Canada. The sale will close in about a month, she estimated.

At 6,000 patents and patent applications, Nortel's was the largest intellectual property portfolio ever sold. The starting offer of $900 million was considered remarkable. The final price was a triumph for Nortel's strategy of selling its operating businesses first but holding back its patents to be sold separately.

Monday's court hearing was a test of whether the auction was a fair fight and produced the best possible result for creditors. Only a few objections remained unresolved Monday, and the few left were overruled.

"I don't believe a dollar was left on the table," said Derrick Tay of Norton Rose, Nortel's Canadian attorney. Nortel's patents are being sold in a way that preserves the license rights of users, preventing an immediate upset in the industry, Tay said.

Nortel filed for insolvency protection around the world in January 2009, awash in debt. It raised $3.2 billion by selling its operating businesses over the next two years, as the world economy struggled.

The Toronto company's problems were exacerbated by the recession, but it had been on a downward slide for some time. Technology's rising stars and survivors had been eyeing the patent collection for years. Nortel's patents cover a wide range of technology, including social networking, Internet search applications and optical networks.

Nortel's creditors, led by bondholders in the U.S. and pension trustees in the U.K., have been fighting over the cash, the last money the Toronto company will see. The judges have pushed the creditors back into mediation in an effort to force them to a settlement. The wrangling over the cash took place behind closed doors until the sales were done, as Nortel's U.S., Canadian, British and European units made an effort to assure potential buyers wouldn't be scared off by intercompany strife.

"I'm not sure how long that's going to last, but right now we're one big happy family," Tay said Monday.

Источник: Total Telecom

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