Nokia Shareholders Approve Microsoft Buyout
Nokia announced on Tuesday that its shareholders overwhelmingly approved Microsoft's purchase of "substantially all" of its devices and services.
Over 99 percent of shareholders at the meeting voted in favor of the deal, according to Nokia. Pending other regulatory approvals, the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.
"This is a significant step forward for Nokia," said Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia's interim CEO and board chairman, in a prepared statement. "We are delighted that shareholders have given us overwhelmingly strong support to proceed with this transformative agreement. Today's vote brings us closer to completing a transaction which will mark the beginning of the next chapter in Nokia's near 150-year history, offering the potential of greater value for shareholders."
First announced in early September, the deal would involve Microsoft acquiring Nokia's devices and services business, as well as the right to license Nokia's patents and mapping services. Microsoft would also inherit more than 30,000 of Nokia's employees, about 18,000 of whom are involved in device manufacturing and packaging.
When the proposed deal was announced, then-Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop stepped down from those positions to join Microsoft as an executive vice president. Elop, who once ran Microsoft's Business Division before joining Nokia in 2010, is considered a front-runner in Microsoft's search for its next CEO to replace Steve Ballmer.
Nokia is Microsoft's most important smartphone OEM partner. In 2011, Nokia inked a deal with Microsoft to base its smartphone handsets on the then-nascent Windows Phone platform. It now accounts for over 90 percent of Windows Phone devices shipped worldwide.
Recent data from research firm Gartner indicates Nokia came second only to Samsung in overall mobile device sales in the third quarter. In terms of smartphone sales, however, Nokia, with its line of Windows Phone-based Lumia devices, is No. 8 worldwide.
Windows Phone has struggled with low market share compared with heavyweights Google Android and Apple iOS. However, in recent quarters, Windows Phone has passed the BlackBerry OS to become the No. 3 smartphone platform worldwide. It captured 3.6 percent of the worldwide smartphone market in Q3, according to IDC. With the Nokia acquisition, Microsoft said it expects Windows Phone to have 15 percent of the worldwide smartphone market by 2018.