Psion shrugs off revolt over Symbian disposal

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The Independent Online

The software company Psion vowed yesterday to press ahead with the £136m sale of its stake in the mobile phone technology venture Symbian, despite a concerted shareholder protest.

Psion claimed that on the basis of proxy forms so far received ahead of this Friday's vote, a majority of independent private shareholders were backing the sale of its 31 per cent holding to Nokia, one of the other partners in the venture. A simple majority of those shareholders voting is needed to approve the sale.

The company also said that it had received indications of strong support from institutional shareholders, even though Psion's biggest shareholder, Phoenix Asset Management, which holds a 13.5 per cent stake, is opposing the sale. It is arguing that Psion shareholders would do much better from a stock market flotation of Symbian. A group of private investors led by David Sharman, a former Royal Navy systems engineer, is also trying to block the deal and says that a recent internet poll showed that 78 per cent of individual shareholders opposed the sale.

However, the Psion chairman David Potter, who has irrevocably pledged his 12 per cent stake in favour of the deal, maintained that Symbian was not ready to be floated and that the board was in a better position than Phoenix to judge the future performance of the venture. In a letter to investors, Mr Potter said: "As a founder of Symbian and the second largest shareholder in Psion I am acutely aware of the emotional attachment of many shareholders to the vision of Symbian. But the board has to work with the realities of the situation. What we need now are hard-headed, commercial decisions based on the facts and clear judgement in order to deliver and protect long-term shareholder value."

Mr Potter said that the proceeds would equate to 210p per Symbian share compared with the 145p paid when Psion and Nokia purchased Motorola's stake in the venture last October.