Tellabs Gives Itself Away in Private Equity Buyout

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Tellabs Inc. (NASDAQ: TLAB) is being acquired in a go-private transaction. The deal values the telecom equipment maker at $2.45 per share, and a private equity firm named Marlin Equity Partners and its affiliates are the acquirers. The problem here is that Tellabs is giving itself away.

Does a 4.3% premium buyout price sound very enticing when shareholders have been stuck in the mud for years? Tellabs closed at $2.35 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $1.90 to $3.63. About the last memorable thing that happened for Tellabs was a $1.00 special dividend at the end of 2012, and Tellabs does still have a dividend yield above 3%.

Will the company make money on its own without the consideration of a merger? Thomson Reuters has estimates of -$0.01 in earnings per share this year, but $0.05 in earnings per share in 2014. The last positive earnings from operations came in fiscal 2010.

This transaction value represents a total equity value of approximately $891 million on a fully diluted basis. The deal has been approved unanimously by its board of directors and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Apparently there is not much value here. The company claims that its review of strategic alternatives included more than 30 potential buyers as part of a competitive bidding process. From an outsider’s view, this does not sound very competitive.

Tellabs had nearly $800 million in cash and short-term equivalents as of June 30. Even after you back out all the liabilities, its total shareholder equity was $999 million and its net tangible assets came to almost $875 million.

Do you remember the days when Tellabs and Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) were involved in a merger that broke apart? Tellabs had a closing bell market value of $835 million, and Ciena had a closing bell value of almost $2.8 billion. That was then, this is now.