Alcatel-Lucent close to enterprise sale

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Alcatel-Lucent close to enterprise sale

Private equity firm in running to grab call centre, unified communications business.

Alcatel-Lucent could finalise the sale of its enterprise business by the end of the week.

After months of closed-door negotiations with varied suitors including HP and Siemens Enterprise Communications, the company confirmed interest overnight in "exploring strategic options" for its non-telco business.

The business provided unified communications, workflow management and call centre software to large businesses internationally.

Cisco, which competes with both Alcatel-Lucent's telecomms and enterprise businesses, was at one stage believed to be interested in bidding for the company.

Reuters reported at the beginning of the month that private equity firm Permira had since become front-runner in negotiations to purchase the business at a bid of $US1.3 billion ($AU1.209 billion).

The buy would make the first major technology acquisition for Permira, formerly known as Schroder Ventures Europe.

The equity firm counts numerous financial services and consumer brands - including Hugo Boss and Valentino - among its investments.

Alcatel-Lucent had begun holding meetings this week with key decision makers within the business internationally in order to finalise its sale.

One source said those negotiations could finish by the end of the week judging by the pace of internal discussions.

However, the buy would have to receive a green light from French workers' unions CFDT and CFE-CGC, which gained access to the negotiating table after initiating a one-day strike of company workers in France over reports of the sale.

The unions, concerned the sale could lead to job cuts among the enterprise division's 5000-employee global workforce, were believed to be the last obstacle to finalisation of the sale to Permira.

CFE-CGC told unionised members prior to Alcatel-Lucent's announcement that a sale was inevitable but the group would continue to push for greater job security in the transition.

The French company was best known locally as the alma mater of NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley. It had secured several lucrative contracts to provide equipment required for the National Broadband Network build.

The company's enterprise division also holds several contracts in Australia with major telcos and government departments.

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