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Nokia to buy Juniper to take on Cisco?

What's left of Nokia might be the bedraggled rump of what used to be a world-leading business but it is also a well-capitalsed rump that continues to manufacture telecoms network and infrastructure equipment.

But, it is to be of any real relevance to the global market after the sale of its devices and services business to Microsoft closes at the end of March, the depleted and defeated Finnish company needs a survival plan - and that seems to be to buy or in some way conjoin with Juniper Networks of the US.

On first reading it might seem a bit far-fetched but there is a precedent; Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) and Juniper are already in a partnership that develops networking gear and sells it carriers around the world.

Nonetheless the acquisition of Juniper by NSN would be a major undertaking given the company's recent fraught history and its fall from the stellar position it once held in the mobile handset firmament where its light burned so brightly for so long before spluttering out amidst bad management, the lack of coherent long-term strategy and intense competition from Scandinavia and China.

Nokia is also a failure in the US market where it has no real presence - whereas Juniper does. Juniper's market capitalisation stands at US$13.7 billion and other companies are known to regard it as a prime acquisition target. NSN is unlikely to be its only suitor.

The current iteration of NSN (Nokia Solutions and Networks) rather than the disastrously failed Nokia Siemens Netwoks of yore, is a standalone unit of Nokia Corporation. According to its own forecasts the NSN business will turn over $20 billion in the twelve months between September 2013 and the end of August this year.

According to the German web publication Manager Magazin Online, back in December 2013 Rajeev Suri, NSN's CEO made a clandestine trip to the US to see Juniper's senior management an float the idea of a buyout or some kind of formalised merger. Apparently the approach was not rejected and things are now moving further forward.

Back home NSN is in the messy process of examining its own entrails and will finalise its navel-gazing at the end of next month when it is due to publish a strategic review and rationalisation plan for the business. It seems the major option will be the joining up with Juniper.

It is all a matter of making NSN a company of sufficient scale, weight and R&D capability to play a properly competitive global game. The company also wants to compete more actively and aggressively with Cisco, the rationale being that together the two companies would be able to provide the world's carriers with an integrated set of 'solutions' for the telecoms exchange, the core network and mobile network. Yes, it's the return of that hoary old chestnut the "one stop shop". How many times have we been down that road before? How many times has it been a dead end?

Footling Friday Footnote Number 746: Stephen Elop, the man who destroyed Nokia before heading back to Microsoft, mission accomplished, was the COO of Juniper in 2007. Did you remember that? No? I'm not surprised. He rose without trace.

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