Motorola Division Up for Sale: WSJ

Sources have told the Wall Street Journal that Motorola is preparing to sell its home and networks mobility division for approximately $4.5 billion.

The article, quoting “people familiar with the matter,” says potential acquirers include private-equity firms and telecommunications-equipment vendors.

Allegedly among the private-equity firms considering the purchase are TPG and Silver Lake Partners, both of which are said to be attracted to the division’s continuing profitability. On the other side of the aisle, equipment vendors said to be candidates to purchase all or part of the division include South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., China’s Huawei Technologies Co., Sweden’s L.M. Ericsson and Pace PLC of the U.K.

Not surprisingly, neither the private-equity firms nor the gear vendors have anything significant to say about their rumored interest in Motorola’s assets.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are said to be advising Motorola on the sale of its home and networks mobility division, which is now Motorola’s largest.

It includes core and edge network products, such as two-way digital video headend systems and bandwidth-management systems, along with related software; access-network products and technologies, including those supporting GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Networking), CMTS (Cable Modem Termination Systems), BAN (Broadband Access Network) and FTTx (fiber to the home or enterprise); wireless-network infrastructure for 3G and 4G networks, including LTE and WiMAX; and customer-premise equipment, such as digital set-top boxes, DSL and cable modems, residential gateways, and WiMAX modems.

Considering that the division’s product portfolio is so varied, it’s conceivable that it Motorola could sell parts of it to at least two different buyers. For example – and this is only hypothetical – Samsung or Pace might purchase the customer-premise equipment and the access-network products and technologies, with Ericsson or Huawei buying the wireless-network infrastructure. Alternatively, Motorola might decide to keep the wireless infrastructure and sell the remainder of the division.

The mooted sale of the home and networks mobility division follows a nosedive in Motorola’s financial performance that effectively torpedoed the company’s plans to spin off its handset business, which hasn’t had a hit since the Razr climbed to the top of the sales charts several years ago. Of course, Motorola is hoping that its geekily marketed Droid smartphone reverses its declining handset fortunes.

Motorola says it maintains its commitment to a long-term plan that would split the company into two businesses: mobile devices and broadband mobility solutions.

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