Motorola Extends Next Level Offer Deadline

Motorola has extended the deadline for its $30 million tender offer for outstanding shares of Next Level Communications to March 4. The bid was set to expire Feb. 25.

The Schaumburg, Ill., cell phone giant already owns 74 percent of Next Level and is offering $30 million for the rest. By doing so, it hopes to allay concerns about Next Level’s finances, which have suffered on lagging demand for very-high-speed digital subscriber line equipment.

But Next Level executives said the offer undervalues the company. In an open letter to its investors today, Rohnert Park, Calif.-based Next Level urged shareholders to reject the bid.

“The decision by Next Level’s minority stockholders not to sell their shares to Motorola in the tender offer will signal that you want Motorola to talk with your board about a variety of options that recognize Next Level’s long-term potential.”

Earlier this month, several Next Level shareholders filed suit against Motorola, alleging the company violated non-disclosure agreements by using confidential information to carry out its offer. The plaintiffs have asked a judge to block the Motorola transaction and pay damages.

Motorola acquired its Next Level stake through the purchase of General Instrument Corp. in January 2000. At the time, Motorola was making buys (as well as significant venture capital investments) to expand its presence and profits beyond handsets.

Since then, however, the telecom equipment market has been tripped by the economy. Carriers and communications providers have canceled or delayed orders, resulting in the failure of dozens of companies. Given this backdrop, Motorola provided Next Level with about $175 million in direct financing for operations and $30 million in guarantees.

But despite recently announced deals, and narrower losses in Next Level’s most recent quarter, Motorola worried that the firm’s stock price, which has languished below the market-required $1 per share mark in recent months, would cause potential customers to choose larger vendors.

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