It beggars belief that humbled telecom equipment supplier Alcatel-Lucent could be scooped up by a Chinese rival with nothing better to do. Huawei or ZTE seem credible candidates. The question is, why would they ever bother?

PLA soldiers perform during a rehearsal of a musical drama in Beijing

That didn't stop shares of Alcatel-Lucent from rocketing up as much as 21 percent on Wednesday on rumors of an unnamed suitor. Momentum was helped by a rating upgrade on the depressed stock by French broker Natixis. The shares later settled back somewhat to trade at 2.75 euros, up 12 percent on the day in Paris.

Why would a Franco-American company that is widely considered a failed example of industry consolidation be doing the same thing over again, but with the added complexity of China in the mix?

The typical explanation for cross-border mergers involving Chinese buyers is to acquire Western branding for goods produced at lower cost in China. But didn't BenQ's 2006 acquisition of Siemens mobile handset business spell the end of that kind of easy cross-border logic?

To begin with Chinese companies seem to be having little problem making inroads with Western phone carriers on their own. Low-cost trumps national identity in purchasing decisions these days, even with former national heroes like Alcatel or Lucent.