Nokia rivals raise stakes in Symbian

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The Independent Online

Nokia, the Finnish mobile phone giant, was yesterday prevented from controlling more than 50 per cent of the British software maker Symbian when several rival phone makers raised their stake in the group.

Nokia, the Finnish mobile phone giant, was yesterday prevented from controlling more than 50 per cent of the British software maker Symbian when several rival phone makers raised their stake in the group.

Its investors, which include a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson, Germany's Siemens, and Japan's Matsushita, which owns the Panasonic brand, all bought shares being sold by Symbian's founder, Psion. They also injected £50m of new money via a rights issue into the software maker which has pioneered so-called "smartphones".

The move, announced by Symbian yesterday, comes after an initial plan by Psion to sell its stake to Nokia was foiled. In January, the two companies said that Psion intended to sell its 31 per cent stake in Symbian to Nokia for £136m. The deal, which would have increased Nokia's shareholding to 63.3 per cent, sparked concerns among Symbian's other stakeholders about its independence. There were fears that Nokia would have been able to wield an inappropriate amount of influence over the software maker, which was also being used by its rivals in the mobile phone market.

Nokia would not have actually been able to control Symbian through a 63 per cent holding because its rules require any one investor to hold 70 per cent in order to be able to dictate its strategy.

Nokia responded to mounting criticism of its position by suggesting that Psion's stake could be carved up between all of its stakeholders. Shareholders took up that invitation.

Symbian said the cash injection would underpin its new direction of widening out its smartphone technology - which enables phones to take pictures, record video and is currently adding receiving emails - to a broader market. Symbian said it would use the £50m to expand its staff by 300 to 1,200.

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