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JDS Uniphase Courts Regulators to Win SDL

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2000
Gaynell Terrell

JDS Uniphase Corp.'s $41 billion play for rival optical telecommunications supplier and sometimes technical superior SDL Inc. would give the merged company about two-thirds of the independent component market and 90 percent of the 980-nm pump laser market, analysts said.

It would also significantly increase JDS Uniphase's product volume and reroute growth in the fiber optic components sector of competitor Corning Inc. of Corning, N.Y., which acknowledged that it had negotiated to buy SDL. SDL chief executive Donald Scifres said he had suggested the merger to longtime business acquaintance Jozef Straus, his JDS Uniphase counterpart. If the deal does not go through, JDS Uniphase would receive a $1 billion breakup fee.

Major customer Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., said that its own advanced manufacturing capability and technology rival that of either company. Nortel Networks Corp. of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, did not comment as of press time. The French telecommunications giant Alcatel SA said it wants to keep its business relationship with both companies but also has a strong internal component manufacturing capacity. Meanwhile, Corning said the merged company should have no impact on its ability to compete. Corning will get a chance to qualify that comment to regulators.

Final word on the deal is left to the antitrust division of the US Department of Justice. Coming only weeks after JDS Uniphase completed its $15 billion buyout of rival E-Tek Dynamics Inc., also of San Jose, this latest acquisition will receive certain close scrutiny by regulators. JDS Uniphase officials allotted five months for regulatory approval and hope to close the deal in December. They also acknowledged they might have to make formal concessions to competitors, as they did in order to buy E-Tek, which prevented JDS Uniphase from controlling 80 percent of the global output of thin-film filters.

Straus insisted that there is little overlap between JDS Uniphase and SDL and that similar products simply offer options to customers based on their technology needs. It's generally agreed that SDL bests JDS Uniphase in optical amplifier technology and pump lasers. SDL also developed arrayed waveguides and is advancing the prospective Raman amplifier market. For its part, JDS Uniphase has become the Wal-Mart of the fiber optic component world: a place where telecommunications companies can find everything they need.

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