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Third Avenue Management Comments on Tellabs

December 19, 2013 | About:
Holly LaFon

Unfortunately, though, there is a "dark side" to resource conversion activities—the dreaded "take-under", where a company is acquired for less than its value. While managements and investment bankers will often use a premium to market price to justify a transaction value, we look instead at the offer price versus intrinsic value. Tellabs' (TLAB) announcement in October to sell itself to Marlin Equity Partners, a private equity firm, is a take-under, in our opinion. Under the terms of the transaction, Tellabs agreed to a cash tender offer of $2.45 per share, which excluding the $551 million of cash on Tellabs' balance sheet, was only 0.37x revenues and attributed no value to the company's intellectual property and real estate. Third Avenue filed a Form 13D in November 2012,where we sought to reserve the right to meet with management, the Board and other shareholders in order to enhance shareholder value. Over that time, we were successful in nominating two members to the Board, and the company paid a special dividend and took steps to reduce costs. While the purchase price is disappointing, it still represents a 17% premium to the price of the stock when we filed our 13D (adjusted for dividends received), highlighting the importance of buying at a discount to NAV to provide a margin of safety. However, we acknowledge a less than optimal result over the life of this investment. The telecom equipment industry in which Tellabs participates is fraught with issues—from competition, technology leapfrogging and the need for high R&D investments, to a highly concentrated customer base and resultant pricing pressure. Despite its super-strong balance sheet, its operating and acquisitions track record was checkered.From Third Avenue Management's fourth quarter 2013 commentary.

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