Battle for Nortel assets intensifies

The fight to acquire the assets of bankrupt Nortel has ratcheted up several notches after the Canadian government confirmed it might have grounds to review last week's auction of the vendor's wireless units to Ericsson.

The fight to acquire the assets of bankrupt Nortel has ratcheted up several notches after the Canadian government confirmed it might have grounds to review last week's auction of the vendor's wireless units to Ericsson.

Ericsson trumped the other players, NokiaSiemens Networks and VC group MatlinPatterson with a last minute bid of $1.13bn.

However the losing bidders are entitled to appeal, and amid frantic lobbying from Research in Motion, which claims it was blocked from the auction, Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement said this week that the government was going to look into whether or not the Investment Canada Act applied to the sale.

The law requires that sales of Canadian firms valued at over CDN$312m - which the wireless sale clearly is - must be subject to review.

Clement told reporters that Ottawa would wait until the 21-day appeal period is up before pressing ahead with any review.

Meanwhile, Siemens Enterprise Networks (SEN), the joint venture between Siemens and Gores, which also owns Enterasys, has emerged as a rival bidder to Avaya, which last week put nearly $500m on the table in an attempt to secure the assets of Nortel's enterprise unit.

Citing the same objections to those raised against NokiaSiemens' wireless bid, Siemens Enterprise Networks claims the agreement between Nortel and Avaya is unfair as the terms of a stalking horse deal skew the deal in favour of the original bidder. MatlinPatterson has also weighed in on the enterprise sale.

Siemens Enterprise Networks - which has set up a venture to be known as Enterprise Networks Holdings (ENH) for the purposes of the auction - apparently does not object to Nokia Siemens having received the same favours as Avaya.

Neither ENH nor MatlinPatterson have yet gone public with their own bids.

The auction of the enterprise business is scheduled to take place on 11 September.

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