Mitel Takes Aim at Avaya With ShoreTel Bid

Anyone thinking about signing a deal with ShoreTel for unified communications gear might want to take a closer look now that Mitel has made public its hopes to buy the company.

Mitel says it’s prepared to pay 24% over the price last Friday of ShoreTel stock (about $540 million), but ShoreTel says no and won’t negotiate, according to a letter Mitel’s CEO wrote to the chairman of ShoreTel. Despite the rebuff, Mitel plans to persist and that means ShoreTel customers should be vigilant.

At the very least, businesses weighing whether to buy ShoreTel gear should find out the likely impact of a merger, says Ken Landoline, a principal analyst with Current Analysis. “Beat up your channel about what does this mean for me?” he says.

Likely it won’t be anything bad because Mitel wouldn’t want to alienate ShoreTel customers by shutting down products they have invested in and perhaps hope to rely on for years, says Jeremy Duke, CEO of Synergy Research group. “They’d be on thin ice,” he says, if they did that. “The market is too competitive. They have to keep the customer base happy.”

An unhappy customer base would leave the Mitel/ShoreTel entity open to poaching by the two big unified communications leaders Cisco and Avaya, he says.

Still, potential ShoreTel customers should make sure that the terms of ongoing support for products are spelled out in whatever contracts they sign, says Landoline, so they know they won’t be stranded if the company is acquired, and its product roadmap changes.

By making public Mitel’s offer to buy the company is putting pressure on ShoreTel’s board by bringing the proposal directly to the attention of shareholders. “[W]e have a proven track record of successfully completing and integrating transactions and are firmly committed to bringing the benefits of a combined organization to our respective customers, employees and other stakeholders,” says Mitel CEO Richard McBee in an Oct. 20 letter to Charles Kissner, chairman of the ShoreTel board.

If Mitel succeeds, it would move the combined company up the ladder of market leaders by revenue in unified communications – at least in the U.S., says Duke. If U.S. on-premises gear plus unified-communications as a service market share for Q1 2014 are compared Cisco (28.7%), Avaya (13.8%), ShoreTel (8.7%) and Mitel (7.1%) rank numbers one, two, three and four respectively, according to Duke. Post merger, that would put Mitel/ShoreTel in second place and bump Avaya third.

He says the prime motivation for the deal may be to boost Mitel’s share of the U.S. market, similar to the way its acquisition of Aastra in January gave it the number 1 ranking in unified communications for Western Europe, Duke says. The Aastra deal also pushed Mitel into the realm of billion-dollar companies by revenue.

Author:  Tim Greene @ Networkworld