Lucent-Alcatel oui, Check Point non?
If Check Point from Israel - with its special relationship to the US - couldn’t buy a little American firm because of security issues, I can't see how Lucent will get US government approval.
Shlomi Cohen 28 Mar 06 11:30
There were no sharp fluctuations in indices during the course of trade last week. The three key indices have maintained a yield of around 5% since the beginning of the year. Only the small cap Russell 2000 Index has continued to turn in an exceptionally strong performance, relative to the other indices, with a yield of 12% since the beginning of 2006. Last week was dominated by news from the large companies, headed by Microsoft (NasdaqNM: MSFT). It was also a week without end of quarter profit warnings but plenty of announcements of massive mergers and buy outs, a trend that has become commonplace in recent months.
The fall in the price of Microsoft, following the announcement of the launch of the Vista operating system and the new version of Office, was more than adequately offset by the increase in the price of its rival Google (NasdaqNM: GOOG). Google finally managed to reverse the trend of recent weeks, ending the week up 7.6%, thanks to the news that it will join the S&P 500 Index of top US companies at the end of month. This will force trust funds across the globe that are committed to the precise composition of the index, to acquire substantial quantities of Google shares.
This index, as it happens, is open only to US companies and consequently Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA), despite trading at a value of $26 billion, cannot join while Comverse Technology (Nasdaq: CMVT) which has a value of $5 billion only, is on this index because it is registered as an US company. When the head of the committee responsible for selection of companies for listing on the S&P 500 was asked why Google had been accepted just 18 months after becoming a public company, he replied that it was because of its high profitability.
When your customers, telephony companies are merging left right and center, you have no choice, as a big telecommunications equipment provider, but to join forces with your competitors, even if you are American and they are French or vice versa. Three years ago at the height of the tension between the US and France over the war in Iraq, as French products were being banned throughout the US ,a merger between Lucent (NYSE: LU) and Alcatel (NYSE: ALA) would have been inconceivable.
The Alcatel board will meet to discuss the merger this coming Thursday, but the leak to the Wall Street Journal of the merger talks was enough to set the sector alight at the weekend. All the companies in the sector have been enjoying handsome gains, even if they have been performing poorly of late, reiterating the adage that claims that when the water level rises, all boats without exception will stay afloat.
One such company to cash in on the weekend bonanza was failing telecommunications provider 3Com (NasdaqNM: COMS), which published poor results on Thursday evening just as news of the aforementioned merger was coming through. The results sent the stock plunging sharply in late trading, but by the next day all had been forgotten as the excitement over the Lucent - Alcatel merger began to work its magic. 3Com was no exception, rising several percentage points to $5.30 from the low of $4.80 in late trading immediately after it posted its results.
Over at the leading Israeli representative in the sector, ECI Telecom (NasdaqNM: ECIL), they’re already popping the champagne corks, in the belief that it too will go under the block in the near future. In the meantime, they apparently want to complete a quick flotation before all the excitement dies down.
I feel there are lot problems in store for this $32 billion US-French merger and while most of these will be regulatory issues as usual, there will be no small amount of emotional problems too. If Check Point (Nasdaq: CHKP), which is located in a country considered a close friend of the US couldn’t manage to buy a diminutive little software company because of security related issues, I am at loss to understand how Lucent, which most certainly has many defense-related projects with the US government will receive approval for a merger with a company from a country, about which the hardline Rumsfeld team at the Pentagon are, to put it mildly, less than enthusiastic.
Why not an American director?
And now, from a pending merger we go to a merger that's petered out, Check Point and SourceFire. Check Point has been a public company for almost a decade. Its trading history can be divided evenly into five good years and five bad ones, and only heaven knows what lies ahead. The share has been deteriorating since 2001, nothing is going smoothly, and investors have become bitter.
To my regret, I can say with cynicism that the only sure thing about Check Point over the past year has been the sell-offs by parties-at-interest. Exactly a month ago, CEO Gil Shwed and senior VP Marius Nacht sold another million shares in line with a "blind share plan" announced a year ago, while company president Jerry Ungerman also let go of another 200,000 shares.
I can't even understand the logic operating behind a seemingly ordinary announcement about the nomination of a new director. I have nothing against Dan Propper, a veteran food industrialist with a brilliant track record, but what exactly will he contribute to Check Point? If you're going to add another director to the board, why not an American with a brilliant track record in technology, who might assist in future mergers that the company will undoubtedly want to make over there?
And if it's got to be an Israeli, why not a recently retired CEO, and if not someone from high-tech, wouldn't it be better to get Eli Hurvitz of Teva, who could contribute his international business experience? After all, within a few years he's taken a company like Check Point in terms of size, with a value of $5 billion, and quintupled it through mergers and acquisitions alone.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on March 28, 2006 http://www.globes.co.il/serveen//globes/docView.asp?did=1000076003&fid=1176