InterDigital's (IDCC) decision to move away for plans to pursue a multi-billion dollar sale of its patent portfolio likely put to rest the heated deal speculation that drove trading in the company's shares over the past year.The designer of hardware and network technology for mobile devices like cellphones and smartphones finished an exploration process for the sale in January and saw its shares plummet in the wake of the news. The move followed Eastman Kodak's filing for bankruptcy protection after it was unable to draw in funds via patent sales. In July, InterDigital shares had surged after it hired Evercore Partners and Barclays Capital to advise on its "strategic alternatives," such as a sale of the company or its patents amid increasing demand for wireless patents. Names that were attached to possible bids in the months that followed included Qualcomm (QCOM), Nokia (NOK), Intel, Samsung and Ericsson. In November, UBS analysts even highlighted InterDigital as a prospective leveraged buyout candidate for a private equity firm. The optimism about a deal got an extra jolt after Google paid a hefty premium in its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MMI), making the deal mainly to snag intellectual property rights, not the company's actual business. Both InterDigital and Kodak may have been unable to fetch the prices they were seeking because their patents are encumbered by years of licensing agreements, making them harder to sell. Heavily licensed patents are difficult to value because buyers would need to see how far partnerships travel and if infringement claims are already protected by previous settlements. InterDigital shares are down 13% in 2012, and more than 18% in the last 12 months. Without M&A speculation injected in the stock price, InterDigital is less speculative but also more boring. The company trades at an earnings multiple that discounts the 30% jump in earnings to $2.40 a share that the analysts expect in 2012. On an enterprise value to 2012 revenues basis, the company's peer group is trading at 5X 2012 consensus revenue estimates, compared to 3.5X for InterDigital. The company gets a price target of $45.67 a share from analysts polled by Bloomberg, a near 20% boost from current prices. The current valuation may show that InterDigital, could benefit patient investors compared to those who were looking to profit from a would-be takeout, according to Christopher Versace of RealMoney. Esepcially if 3G and 4G LTE smartphones continue to be adopted by consumers.
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