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Nokia Siemens Examining Motorola Acquisition

Buying Motorola's telecom equipment operations may help Nokia crack the U.S. mobile market.

Once synonymous with networking leadership, Motorola today is synonymous with selling itself. The latest to kick Motorola's tires is reported to be Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), which has been examining Motorola's telecom equipment operations.

NSN has been almost desperate to break into the North American market in a big way, particularly after it failed in its attempt to acquire Nortel Networks' LTE/CDMA operation in bankruptcy proceedings. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that unnamed sources said NSN is in talks with Motorola to acquire its telecom equipment arm in a deal that could reach $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion.

Finland-based Nokia, which is still the world's mobile phone market leader, has lagged far behind in mobile handsets in the United States, and a deal with NSN would help it crack the U.S. market. Nokia is the dominant partner in Nokia Siemens.

Mobile spectrum would likely play an important part in any acquisition. Nokia rose to the top of the mobile phone universe by riding the European GSM standard, which is under growing competitive pressure from Long-Term Evolution (LTE). Motorola is strong in another robust wireless standard, WiMax, but Nokia has sworn off WiMax to focus on LTE and HSPA, yet another wireless infrastructure standard.

Private equity groups have also been circling Motorola and they would likely play an important role in the coming breakup of Motorola. The firm's management has targeted the first quarter of 2011 for splitting up the company.

Meanwhile, Motorola's mobile devices and home businesses have regained traction in recent months, primarily due to new Android-based phones. The unit, which includes television set-top boxes as well as mobile handsets, is operated by co-CEO Sanjay Jha who was hired away from Qualcomm to shape up the mobile unit. Jha has said the unit will be profitable by the end of the year.

Pushing behind the scenes is financier and former corporate raider Carl Icahn, who has taken a major financial position in Motorola and who has argued the company is worth more broken up than as a single company.

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