ADC Communications Looking at Buying ECI Telecom

The rumors have sent ECI stock up 8%; Goldman Sachs, advising on the process, started ECI at Hold

For weeks whispers have been circulating that a major American company is moving to buy Israel's ECI Telecom (Nasdaq: ECIL) . The whispers have not died down and in the last five trading days, shares in ECI have climbed by 8%, to $8.40. And the story is, by and large, true.

TheMarker has learned that ECI's owners, namely Koor Industries (NYSE: KOR)  and Clal Industries and Investments (TASE: CII), which are owned in turn by Nochi Dankner's IDB, are working with Goldman Sachs to sell ECI.

The putative buyer is none other than ADC Telecommunications, and the deal would apparently be effected through a stock swap.

ADC is worth $1.7 billion on Nasdaq, while ECI is worth $990 million.

In fact the story of an ECI takeover is nothing new. Last year ECI hired a big investment bank to find it a buyer: Koor (30%), Clal (14%), Ofer Shipping (6%) and the Carmel fund (3%) would like to exit their investment.

Some of the above first invested in ECI at a share price of a few dollars. The perfect time would have been at the start of the year, when shares in the telecoms equipment provider peaked at $11. The controlling shareholders thought to exit en masse through offerings on the stock exchange, but in May the markets reversed into retreat. Nor did the market appreciate the idea of the offer and shares in ECI retreated to $7-8.

In May, IDB bought Koor. IDB's controlling shareholder Nochi Dankner is no stranger to exits, and the consolidation trend in telecommunications plays into his hands. Note that Nokia and Siemens for instance merged their telecommunications equipment businesses, for instance, as did Alcatel and Lucent. A deal to buy ECI would not be extraordinary.

There is a question over price: market sources had been talking about $12 per ECI share, but that looks high to analysts covering the company. Avivit Mannet-Kalil of CIBC thinks a 40% premium over its share price is too much.

Chinese walls in place, presumably, Goldman Sachs started coverage of ECI yesterday with a Hold rating, and 12-month price target of $9.25, which is 5% above its closing that day. The company is nothing particularly exciting in the short run but is in the long run, the bank suggests.

A spokesperson for ECI said the company does not comment on rumors. Goldman Sachs: "No comment."