Symbian owners foil Nokia takeover

Shareholders increase stakes

Symbian's other shareholders have stopped Nokia from taking majority ownership of the smart phone OS developer.

Symbian is expected to announce at a London press conference in London this afternoon that most shareholders have exercised their rights to buy bigger stakes in the company. Only Samsung is ducking out, according to the FT, which means that Nokia will be left with around 49 per cent of the business.

In February, Psion announced the sale of its 31.1 per cent stake in Symbian to Nokia for £135.5m. This meant that Nokia would double its share in Symbian to 61.3 per cent and assume effective, if not full control - that requires 70 per cent of the board votes.

Symbian's other shareholders had rights to participate in the purchase of the Psion stake. Sony-Ericsson did not want to see Symbian turn into a Nokia sub; it said a Nokia-owned software platform was "unattractive", and urged fellow shareholders to exercise their rights.

Symbian was founded by Psion and three major mobile phone makers, Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson, all with roughly equal shares. A single smart phone OS owned by everyone - and hence, no-one - meant that developers could confidently write their apps for a big platform.

Since then Motorola has sold its stake, and Ericsson has spun out its handsets business into a joint venture with Sony. The JV is much smaller than Ericsson was by itself in its heyday and, for a while, the Swedish firm's commitment to the handset business was in question. And new shareholders have joined the Symbian register - Samsung, Siemens and Matsushita.

Also Microsoft has thrown its hat into the arena with its own smart phone OS. In terms of sales, this has failed to set the world on fire - so far. But one can never underestimate Microsoft. These days, Motorola, the world's second biggest mobile phone maker, appears to be firmly in the Microsoft camp. And after a horrible few years, Motorola's star is once again in the ascendant. ®

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