BlackBerry maker wants Nortel sale cancelled

"We felt like we were snookered," BlackBerry president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis Friday told a parliamentary committee of Nortel's refusal to let his company bid for its wireless business July 28.
Sweden's Ericsson won the auction in New York with its $1.13 billion bid.
The 127-year-old Toronto-based Nortel, which has been a global name in telecom equipment, is liquidating itself to pay creditors after suffering losses of $5 billion last year.
But the BlackBerry maker, which was shut out of bidding for refusing to sign non-disclosure agreements, sought government intervention to stop transfer of crucial technology to a foreign company.
Bowing to pressure, the government asked top guns of RIM, Nortel and Ericsson to give their versions to a parliamentary committee in Ottawa Friday.
Lazaridis told the committee that the government should stop the sale of a "national treasure" to a foreign company.
He said his company was on the verge of a "handshake deal" with Nortel and exchanging e-mails on the wording of a press release to announce the deal when Nortel suddenly backed out.
"I think it is very important when you are quickly trying to sell assets -- Canadian assets -- it is important to do due diligence," he said after his deposition to the committee.
He said the government should take "due care to make sure that we are not giving these assets away in a way that would be unfavourable towards Canada or its industry".
But Nortel's George Riedel debunked his arguments, saying that "this is a good deal for Canada".
Riedel, who is chief strategy officer at Nortel, said the deal involved no transfer of confidential or security-specific technology.
He said before filing for bankruptcy Nortel had approached the Canadian government to bail it out, but to no avail.
Ericsson (Canada) president and CEO Mark Henderson told the MPs that the deal will only advance Canada in the wireless technology industry.
"It will assist Ericsson to keep Canada at the forefront of technological development with respect to next-generation wireless technologies," Henderson said.
He said Ericsson has operated in Canada since 1953 and the deal is in keeping with the government's goal of "attracting direct foreign investment in order to increase Canada's productivity".
Since RIM was eying Nortel's patents to the next-generation wireless technology -- called long-term evolution (LTE) -- which will allow advanced services on cell phones, Nortel has said it is not selling these patents to Ericsson. The Ericsson CEO also clarified this Friday.
"These much-talked-about LTE patents that are being licensed to Ericsson, we're not purchasing them from Nortel. That means that Nortel retains the ownership of the licence, they stay in Canada and they are free to license those to any other company that they choose to do so," Henderson said.
Whether the government will listen to the BlackBerry maker and cancel the deal remains to be seen.

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