CHICAGO – Sure, a bar code reader lacks the “wow” appeal of a sleek cell phone, but Motorola Inc. needs gadgets to beef up sales to business, too, not just consumers.

Hence, Motorola’s announcement Tuesday that it will pay $3.9 billion in cash for Symbol Technologies, the leading maker of bar code readers and rugged mobile computers.

It’s Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola’s biggest acquisition since its $17 billion buyout of cable TV equipment maker General Instrument Corp. in 2000.

Analysts generally praised the deal, saying it was priced fairly and should help Motorola broaden its customer base. “It’s ultimately a good strategic move,” said Bill Choi, an analyst at Jefferies & Co.

Motorola’s stock closed at $24.93, down two cents on Tuesday. The ho-hum response may stem from the notion that the deal won’t have a major near-term financial effect.

“Even under a best case scenario, Symbol doesn’t really do much,” said James Faucette, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities. The revenues Motorola will get from Symbol will likely be equivalent to the sales of a few million new Krzr (Krazer) mobile phones, he said.

Motorola is the world’s second biggest cell phone maker and the Krzr, a follow up to the Razr, is expected to be a big seller. It made its global retail debut Tuesday in Hong Kong.

Motorola will pay $15 per share for Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol, a 31-year-old firm that counts major retailers and manufacturers among its big customers.

Symbol’s bar code readers scan prices at supermarkets, and track inventory in warehouses. Its handheld computers, which usually have bar code readers, are used by a host of mobile workers, from doctors to delivery van drivers.

Symbol is the market leader in so-called rugged mobile computers, with about a 31 percent share, according to a report by Lawrence Harris, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co.

Mobile computing made up 66.5 percent of Symbol’s $1.8 billion in sales last year.

Motorola does more than $36 billion in annual sales, the majority of which comes from mobile phones. The company is also big in selling mobile communications equipment to public agencies such as police and fire departments.

But Motorola has less of a presence in the so-called “enterprise,” or business, market.

The Symbol deal will help fix that, more than doubling Motorola’s current $1 billion in enterprise revenues. And it will boost Motorola’s business-related product offerings.

Motorola’s current enterprise sales come primarily from radio-related products. It sells some customized mobile computers, but not nearly on the scale as Symbol.

“The overlap (between Symbol and Motorola) is pretty minimal,” said Greg Brown, president of Motorola’s networks and enterprise business.

Symbol also makes equipment that connects mobile computers and bar code readers into local-area wireless networks – a network within an individual warehouse, for example.

Such networks, too, will complement Motorola’s product lineup, which is focused on wireless networks for larger areas – for instance, a network for an entire town.

“We didn’t have wireless LAN (local area network) business,” Brown said.

Symbol is also the leading maker of scanners that read “RFID” labels, according to Oppenheimer’s Harris.

RFID stands for radio frequency identification. The technology is still in its infancy and accounts for a small amount of Symbol’s sales. But experts believe RFID may one day at least partially supplant bar codes.

The Motorola deal has been good for Symbol shareholders. Symbol’s shares were up 8 cents Tuesday to $14.75. Symbol’s stock shot up 15 percent Monday after rumors of the deal leaked out.

Symbol’s shares had been weighed down earlier this year because of worries about its long-term sales growth, and concern that its market share was declining, according to Bloomberg News.

Motorola’s acquisition of Symbol will result in about $100 million in cost cutting between the two companies’ operations by 2008, Brown said.

Symbol’s 5,000 employees will become Motorola employees. Also, Sal Iannuzzi, Symbol’s chief executive, will remain head of Symbol’s operations.

For one Chicago area company, Zebra Technologies, the Symbol-Motorola deal will mean a new business partner.

Vernon Hills, Ill.-based Zebra makes equipment that prints the bar code and RFID labels that are in turn read by Symbol scanners.

“Zebra has a very strong relationship with Symbol,” said Mike Terzich, a senior vice president at Zebra.

Symbol and Zebra’s strategic alliance includes joint marketing and sales programs. Terzich said Zebra expects its Symbol relationship will continue under Motorola.

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