Nortel to Auction MEN on Friday

Nortel Networks said late Wednesday it will auction off its optical networking and carrier Ethernet businesses on Nov. 20.

The auction was delayed from Nov. 13 as Nortel was said to seek high-bidding suitors than Ciena Corp., which has promised to pay $521 million for the Metro Ethernet Networks (MEN) unit. Analysts aren’t confident, though, that Ciena has the deep pockets it’s probably going to need to go up against other companies that want MEN.

Nortel first considered selling MEN in September of 2008. The idea perplexed analysts at the time – it was a “surprising choice of units to divest,” one said, because MEN remained profitable even as Nortel was tumbling ever closer to bankruptcy. Nortel then pulled MEN from the auction block, only to return the business to that position after declaring bankruptcy on Jan. 14 of this year.

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