Vonage Pays Sprint $80 Million, Presumably Running Out of Cash

A document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and published Thursday shows that Vonage Holdings Corp. has paid the $80 million it agreed to hand over for infringing on some of Sprint Nextel Corp.s VoIP patents.

Vonage and Sprint reached a settlement agreement in October.

Sprint now is licensing its VoIP patents to Vonage on a non-exclusive, non-refundable and non-transferable basis. Vonage also cannot sub-license the intellectual property.

Sprint, at the same time, gets to license any of Vonages future voice-over-packet patents. The agreement ends May 5, 2014.

There is a caveat. If a telecom company such as AT&T Inc. buys Vonage, that buyer cant get its hands on Sprints patent portfolio. This is a common clause, said Lisa Pearce, a VoIP analyst for Forrester Research.

Its understandable that one carrier wouldnt want another to have its assets, she explained.

The question of whether Vonage will be acquired remains a big one. Over the past year, the company has taken a beating. It has lost or settled all of the patent infringement suits filed against it by Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T, Sprint and Nortel Networks. Its stocks arent budging past $2 (it hit an all-time low last year of 89 cents) and customers have been dropping like the proverbial flies Vonage lost 9 percent of its subscribers in the third quarter of 2007.

On top of that, Vonage is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars each month, and millions overall, to settle the patent cases, presumably with money left over from its IPO and original private investors. The company only has so much cash, and it has never turned a profit, nor does it look to any time soon. So, experts have said for several months, it stands to reason that the company will sell or go bankrupt.

I actually expected that they would have closed their doors by now, Pearce said. I think it will be a very difficult winter for Vonage.

Vonage stocks were trading for $1.98 early Friday afternoon, down 7 cents or 3.42 percent.

AT&T Inc.
Sprint Nextel Corp.
Verizon Communications Inc.
Vonage Holdings Corp.

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