Nortel Profits in Q1 As Unit Sales Finalized

Nortel Networks reported a $355 million first-quarter profit thanks to the sale of several of its assets.

The bankrupt telecom equipment maker, once a formidable name in the industry, liquidated its CDMA, LTE access, DiamondWare, and two other, smaller, businesses in the three months ended March 31. The activity led to the financial gains, compared to a net loss of $507 million a year earlier. Predictably, revenue fell as Nortel discontinued the sold units’ operations, from $1.04 billion to $484 million.

And, as rivals increased their R&D expenses, Nortel cut its own costs in that department. R&D investment plummeted 58.3 percent to $96 million, although the decline isn’t surprising considering Nortel’s continued phase-out.

Now the company is again said to be shopping its patent portfolio. Many observers consider BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion to be the top contender for the LTE intellectual property; that phone maker’s carrier customers include Verizon Wireless and AT&T, both of whom are gearing up to offer 4G wireless access using the LTE protocol.

The Wall Street Journal said on Monday, citing anonymous sources, that Nortel is soliciting bids for its patents, although there’s no confirmation the vendor actually will sell the holdings. There is apparent internal discord over the move, since some Nortel execs want to license the patents and make royalties, rather than sell outright.

The solicitations have not come with firm prices but market talk suggests Nortel could ask as much as $1 billion, the Journal said.

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