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Motorola on Tuesday made an agreed bid for Symbol Technologies that values the bar-code scanner and handheld PC maker at about $3.9bn, or $15 a share in cash.

Symbol manufactures a range of ruggedised handheld PCs, bar-code scanners, wireless networking equipment and RFID (radio frequency identification) products mainly aimed at the retail and inventory management markets.

A deal would complement Motorola’s existing wireless equipment business and perhaps signal the Illinois-based company’s renewed interest in RFID technology, which it helped develop in the 1990s but has subsequently largely ignored.

“From a strategic perspective, we believe the transaction would make a lot of sense as it would more than double Motorola’s presence in the mobile enterprise
market,” Lawrence Harris, an analyst with Oppenheimer wrote in a research note
published on Tuesday.

An acquisition by Motorola would mark the mobile phone company’s largest deal since it bought General Instrument, a cable TV set-top box maker, for $17bn in 2000, and the biggest by far since Ed Zander took over as Motorola’s chief executive in 2004.

Symbol, which has about 5,200 employees worldwide, including about 1,400 on New York’s Long Island, is the leading maker of handheld bar-code scanners, with almost 30 per cent of the market, and RFID tag readers, with 41 per cent of the market.

However, the company’s future has become the subject of mounting speculation since the technology crash five years ago which cut sales dramatically and sent Symbol’s share price tumbling.

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