Nokia shareholders approve sale of mobile business to Microsoft

Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:17pm EST
 
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By Ritsuko Ando and Jussi Rosendahl

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nokia shareholders approved the 5.4 billion euros ($7.4 billion) sale of the company's mobile phone business to Microsoft, deciding the deal's financial benefits outweighed any objections to the loss of a Finnish national asset.

Investors holding more than 99 percent of Nokia voting rights supported the deal, according to a final tally at Tuesday's shareholders meeting in Helsinki. The sale is expected to close in the first quarter of next year after regulatory clearances.

Nokia had in September agreed to sell its devices and services business and license its patents to Microsoft after failing to recover from a late start in smartphones.

"I think it's a fair price if you think about the situation right now," said Matti Pirkola, a 58-year-old shareholder as he arrived for the meeting in Helsinki's Ice Hall arena.

Pirkola had been a Nokia shareholder since the early 1980s, when he worked for the company for a few years. "I think Nokia could have chosen another option a few years ago, but now there are no other alternatives," he said.

The sale is set to boost Nokia's net cash position to nearly 8 billion euros from around 2 billion in the third quarter - a windfall likely to help it regain investment-grade status from credit rating agencies and allow it to return cash to shareholders.

Nokia earlier this year suspended its annual dividend for the first time in its 148-year recorded history in an attempt to preserve cash.

Billionaire and activist investor Daniel Loeb said in October he had taken a position in Nokia and expected a "meaningful portion of the excess" cash from the Microsoft deal to be returned to investors.   Continued...

 
Nokia Leadership team members, Stephen Elop (L) and Michael Halbherr (2nd L), attend the company's extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in Helsinki November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva