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Nokia shareholders rubber-stamp Microsoft deal

Finnish firm will sell devices unit to US giant for $7.4bn

Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop at yesterday’s stockholder meeting in Helsinki. Elop was initially named head of the Microsoft devices unit that will include the acquired Nokia property, but now finds himself on a shortlist of candidates to replace Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop at yesterday’s stockholder meeting in Helsinki. Elop was initially named head of the Microsoft devices unit that will include the acquired Nokia property, but now finds himself on a shortlist of candidates to replace Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Nokia shareholders yesterday gave their stamp of approval to a $7.4bn sale of the Finnish company's devices business to Microsoft Corp, Reuters reported.

At a meeting in Helsinki, a resounding 99% of held voting rights were recorded as in favour of the deal, with a small minority remaining critical of the foreign acquisition of a Finnish icon that once generated as much as 4% of domestic GDP.

Nokia's cash reserves are set to surge to EUR8bn in the first quarter of next year when the transaction is expected to be finalised. This will represent a 300% rise from its Q3 position of EUR2bn. As part of the deal, Nokia will also license its patents to Microsoft.

"I think it's a fair price if you think about the situation right now," said Matti Pirkola, a 58-year-old shareholder.

"I think Nokia could have chosen another option a few years ago, but now there are no other alternatives," he added, in reference to Nokia's inability to capitalise on the smartphone revolution, which created a market now dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

Nokia's telecom equipment division Nokia Services and Networks (NSN) will now generate 90% of the group's income.

Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop - who left a senior position at Microsoft in 2010 to try to rescue the Finnish firm - has been criticised by some shareholders for abandoning the company's Symbian operating system too readily and for choosing Microsoft's untested Windows Phone platform over Google's Android.

Elop, who received an EUR18.8m parting payment when he stepped down, was initially named as the new boss of Microsoft's devices unit, which will include the acquired Nokia division and Microsoft's current properties, such as its Surface tablet and the Xbox gaming console. But he has since found himself on a shortlist of candidates to replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.