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Corning mulls buying Lucent fiber unit

The company confirms earlier reports that it is considering buying Lucent Technologies' fiber-optic unit, but it declines to say whether the two companies are in talks.

    Corning confirmed earlier reports that the company has considered buying Lucent Technologies' fiber-optic unit, but it declined to say whether or not the two companies are in talks.

    Dan Collins, Corning's vice president of communications, said the company has had internal discussions on the possibility of buying Lucent's fiber business unit.

    "We have talks about that stuff and other opportunities all the time," said Collins, who added that everybody in the industry most likely considered buying the unit when Lucent put it up for sale last week.

    Another acquisition would maintain the brisk pace of Corning's recent shopping spree over the past few months. Corning, a maker of glass fiber for communications networks, announced in September that it would buy Pirelli's optical components and devices business for $3.6 billion in cash. The company also announced two smaller acquisitions since September currently worth about $105 million total.

    "It's a business that Lucent should dispose of because it doesn't have the same (high) growth rate of their optical network business," ABN AMRO analyst Ken Leon said.

    Leon says the fiber-optics unit, which makes cable for optical networks, generates about $1.5 billion in revenue per year and could be sold for between $4 billion and $6 billion.

    Corning made a total of $7.27 billion last year, revenue that includes its fiber business along with other divisions. The combination of the two companies could be blocked by government antitrust watchers, which poses a barrier to a sale.

    Collins would not comment on whether Corning has or will have talks with Lucent, but the company is preparing itself for possible acquisitions.

    Last week, the company filed a shelf registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $5 billion in securities.

    Collins downplayed the significance of the filing and said that the filing only gives the company the option to raise the funds and that Corning has made "several" filings over the past two years.