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News and analysis of developments in the enterprise communication industry and market with primary focus on Europe.

The author aims to tap into ideas, insights and thoughts of the readers to get varied perspectives.

Views expressed in this blog are solely the author's opinion and in no way reflect those of his employer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mitel acquires Inter-Tel: Its all about IPO

Last friday, there was news that Mitel announced definitive agreement to acquire Inter-Tel. I couldn't join the conference call that day. My curiosity was addressed yesterday when I went on a call with the senior management of Mitel Networks.

I wanted to know why Mitel bought Inter-Tel. Mitel is far bigger than Inter-tel. Both play in the SMB. Both are dominant players in the U.S. And Mitel has been dabbling with the prospect of an IPO for over a year now.

I asked Don Smith, CEO of Mitel as to why his company agreed to pay 57% more than Inter-Tel's net sales ($428 million) in 2006. The price-earning ratio of the deal is 27.8 which seem quite high when Inter-Tel has been growing by 3.6% y-o-y by sales and the U.S CPE market growing at 6.2% y-o-y.

Don said that Inter-tel was on Mitel's radar for some time now. He thought the timing to be right. Mitel had to face a proxy battle from Mihalyo for sometime-in the end Mitel walked off paying 10% over the last offer made and 8% premium to the last traded price of Inter-tel stock.

In addition to the acquisition of Inter-tel, Mitel announced its intent to withdraw from the IPO registration process. The timing of the withdrawl is interesting. InfoTech's research places Mitel+InterTel as the leader in the sub 100 segment market in the U.S and ranked two in the sub-500 market in U.S. I reckon this acquisition is all about the IPO. We shouldn't be surprised to see Mitel re-register for an IPO sometime next year. Whenever it does, it can value itself at Inter-Tel's price-earning ratio; that wouldn't be all too bad.

But then what does the acquisition mean to Mitel? During the call with Mitel, I learnt that there is low channel overlap. This allows to leverage existing relationships to promote products from both companies. It is believed that both brands will continue to co-exist. One of the significant advantages of Inter-tel is its real-estate (57 offices) in the U.S- something that will give enhanced direct touch capability to Mitel as it attempts to break into the MLE with its ICP 3300.

Is this the beginning of a trend?

There are several players in this market that are looking for partnership. Nortel managed an ICA with Microsoft. ShoreTel is taking the IPO route. Siemens Enterprise search for a partner continues. However, there is no reason to believe that Mitel's acquisition of Inter-tel will begin a trend. I think this to be a tactical move towards a successful IPO.

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