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Symbian shares deal blocks Nokia takeover

Posted: 13 Jul 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile? sony ericsson? siemens? panasonic? smartphone?

Major shareholders in Symbian have injected an additional $92 million into the mobile operating system vendor, preventing Nokia from gaining majority control.

Sony Ericsson, Siemens and Panasonic exercised their rights to buy a portion of the 31 percent stake that Symbian founder Psion put up for sale in February, and that Nokia offered to buy. The stake would have raised the Finnish phone maker's holdings to over 63 percent.

The three companies, together with Nokia, all said they would take part in the latest funding round to bring in ?50 million (about $92 million), most of which would be used for developing its operating system for smartphones as well as platforms for lower cost phones.

The extra cash would allow Symbian to increase its staff from the current 900 to nearly 1,200.

Nokia will instead hold 47.9 percent of the OS developer, allaying fears that it would gain majority control of Symbian. Sony Ericsson will increase its stake from 1.5 percent to 13.1 percent, but Ericsson's individual stake decreases from 16.5 to 15.6 percent. Panasonic's share increases to 10.5 percent and Siemens' grows to 8.4 percent from 4.8 percent.

Samsung opted not to exercise its pre-emption rights, hence its stake decreased half a percent to 4.5 percent.

Matti Alahuhta, Nokia's executive VP and chief strategy officer, sought to downplay the ownership issue, saying Nokia wants other vendors involved. Nokia "encouraged shareholders to take part in this round of fundraising" and endorsed the "multicompany, broad ownership structure - that's what we have today," Alahuhta said.

As part of the share ownership deal, Symbian will appoint an independent, nonexecutive chairman to its supervisory board. A candidate search is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Psion has meanwhile reaped the benefits of the sale. It was due to receive about $251 million for its stake from Nokia and will now receive about $255 million.

- John Walko

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