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Aviat Networks issues open letter to Ceragon Networks shareholders

Aviat Networks, Inc. he leading expert in wireless transport solutions, issued an open letter to shareholders of Ceragon Networks Ltd. encouraging them to urge the Ceragon Board of Directors to seriously consider Aviat’s acquisition proposal, which continues to provide Ceragon shareholders with the opportunity to receive an immediate and certain cash premium. The proposal follows Aviat’s numerous attempts to engage in a constructive dialogue with Ceragon and reach a mutually beneficial agreement that would serve the interests of all shareholders.

Dear fellow Ceragon shareholders:

As the third largest shareholder of Ceragon, we are concerned about the Company’s continued poor performance and prospects, and based on the calls we have received since publicly announcing our proposal to acquire Ceragon on June 27th (U.S.) / June 28th (Israel), we believe that many of you may share our concerns.

During the last five years, Ceragon stock has declined 12%, while the Russell 2000 has appreciated by 33% in the same timeframe. Ceragon is therefore underperforming the market by a differential of 45 percentage points. The Company’s gross margin has declined from 34% in calendar year 2019 to 30% over the last twelve months, during which time Ceragon has generated negative free cash flow of $42 million. The strategy of the current leadership team simply is not working. While Ceragon leaders say things are going to turn around, much of its forecasted improvement is based on the rollout of a next generation chip that has been repeatedly delayed, first under the leadership of the Company’s former CEO Ira Palti, who served in the position until July 2021, and now under his successor, Doron Arazi.

As CEO, Palti underestimated the impact of supply chain disruptions, mismanaged the chip development process, and miscalculated the anticipated timeline of the product rollout. Specifically, on August 2, 2020, Palti told shareholders that the estimated time from chip development to manufacturing to the next generation product rollout would be around 12 months, but on February 8, 2021, he revised this timeline to 18 months. The view of the current management team is that the chip will be ready by the end of this year, which is already well over a year behind schedule. Given the supply challenges in the chip space, which the Company has itself noted may cause further delays, we see no reason to believe this product won’t continue to slip in its delivery to the market. We believe the delay is primarily the result of Ceragon attempting to reach outside its area of competency to develop a chip when it would be faster and more efficient to partner with a company that solely develops chips and can execute immediately. Thus, when Ceragon’s new chip is eventually rolled out, we believe it will already lag the market in many of its performance attributes.

Palti would like you to believe that there is no competitive alternative to spending two or more years developing a chip in-house, but this is wrong. In contrast, Aviat partnered with an expert to create just such an alternative. Aviat’s next generation System on Chip (developed in partnership with MaxLinear) will be a more capable commercial alternative based on a newer generation of technology than Ceragon’s chip, enabling network OEMs and operators to deliver ultra-high-capacity payloads, over longer distances, with the lowest possible total cost of ownership. We believe Ceragon’s chip will consume more power and create cost, system design, and supply chain challenges. This type of chip problem could require a redesign at a different node to achieve competitiveness, leaving Ceragon with a technological deficit and additional expense over the long-term.

Because of poor decisions and execution, we fear that Ceragon’s standalone prospects are diminished, and that its underperformance will continue unless the Board takes action. To date, unfortunately, the path Ceragon’s Board has chosen is inaction. The architect of the failed strategy, Palti, now holds a seat on the Board of Directors, and we believe his presence will hinder any efforts to fix the mistakes he committed, and instead continue to foster a culture of underperformance.

We recognize that as the new CEO, Arazi has been put in a very difficult position, because Palti’s continued participation on the Board undermines any actions that Arazi could take to correct Palti’s mistakes. By his presence, Palti has wedded the Board to its failed strategy, and he has publicly expressed that Ceragon is wholly committed to seeing this strategy through, making it very difficult for Arazi to propose a change in strategy. This is one of many reasons why we are proposing to remove Palti from the Ceragon Board and replace him and other certain directors who lack sufficient independence to act in the best interest of shareholders with new, highly-qualified independent directors who can objectively evaluate all strategic proposals.

CT Bureau

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