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Nortel pensioners hope to gain from Google's bid for patents

Think about the contribution made by our Olympic and World Cup athletes. They often do more to unify the country and provide a sense of national identity than any politician’s speech. They deserve more recognition; a federal pension would be a good place to start.

MARK BLINCH/The Globe and Mail

Nortel pensioners are hoping that Google's $900-million (U.S.) offer for the last of the insolvent tech company's patents leads to even higher bids and fetches billions to potentially top up their pensions.

"That's the minimum we're hoping to have because those assets are worth billions of dollars," spokeswoman Anne Clark-Stewart said Tuesday.

"So if anybody buys them for $1-billion, it's just a giveaway," she said from Ottawa.

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The search engine giant is bidding on 6,000 Nortel patents - the last of Nortel's assets to be sold.

Ms. Clark-Stewart said the advanced wireless network technology patents and Internet protocol patents in the portfolio are worth billions alone and estimated the entire portfolio at as much as $35-billion.

"I know that at least 100 of them are worth $100,000 each so you've got $10-billion there," said Ms. Clark-Stewart of the Nortel Retirees and Former Employees Protection Canada.

Over the last two years, Nortel has sold its businesses piece by piece to separate companies and has raised billions of dollars to pay off creditors, bondholders and others.

Ms. Clark-Stewart estimated that the sale of Nortel assets have brought in at least $3.2-billion, and some of that money can be used to top up their underfunded pensions, which she said have lost half of their value.

Over the last couple of years, Nortel has sold its wireless network business to Sweden's Ericsson for $1.13-billion and its enterprise solutions business to U.S.-based Avaya Inc. for $689-million, among others.

She said her organization will be fighting for a share of the total sales of all Nortel assets along with creditors and others in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

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"We need it terribly," she said of the more than 20,000 pensioners across Canada whose average age is 74 and whose average pension is just $1,700 a month.

"There will be an asset distribution once everything is sold," Ms. Clark-Stewart said, adding that major creditors in the three countries are trying to agree on how those assets will be distributed.

She believes the patents should be sold in bundles to bring in more money.

The auction will be held in June in Delaware.

Google is becoming a growing force in wireless communications with its Android operating system for smart phones and tablet computers.

Google's Android system has been making headway against Apple's iPhone and iPad and other smart phones and tablet operating systems, including Nokia's Symbian, Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

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