Cisco Systems president and chief executive officer, John Chambers, would welcome a partnership with telecommunications equipment maker Nortel Networks.
"I believe in strategic partnerships. I would love to have Nortel as a partner," Chambers said in a speech in Toronto.
However, Chambers downplayed the notion that Cisco might buy Nortel.
"I don't know how to do large acquisitions," Chambers said. Then he added, "Never say never."
Chambers has said many times that partnerships tend to be less difficult and risky than acquisitions.
President and chief executive officer of Nortel, William Owens, said he had not talked to Chambers about partnerships but Nortel would be open to discussions. His reported comments were confirmed by Nortel.
Chambers' comments followed a comment by Owens last week stating that Nortel expects to put a growing emphasis on partnerships, according to Nortel spokesperson, Tina Warren.
A partnership between the two companies might benefit both, as Nortel was much more established in the service-provider equipment business while Cisco was stronger in enterprise gear, Burton Group analyst, Dave Passmore, said.
"I could see why they would view Nortel as not being much of a competitor [in some areas] but instead being someone they would partner with to better crack the service provider space," Passmore said.