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Asian Regulatory Issue Delays Microsoft-Nokia Deal

Instead of the projected closing window of late March, Microsoft's $7 billion acquisition of Nokia's device segment may now not be finalized until sometime in April due to a regulatory holdup.

The deal, in which Microsoft would acquire Nokia's devices and services business, as well as the right to license Nokia's patents and mapping services, has already received regulatory approval from the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union. It has also receive the overwhelming approval of Nokia's shareholders.

However, the two companies said last weekend that there are still some regulatory bodies that have not signed off on the acquisition.

"We are nearing the final stages of our global regulatory approval process -- to date we have received approvals from regulatory authorities in 15 markets on five continents. Currently, we are awaiting approval confirmation in the final markets," said Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith in a brief statement on Sunday.

Smith did not say which "final markets" are still assessing the deal. In its own statement, Nokia said the pending approvals are from "certain antitrust authorities in Asia."

The main holdout is China, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter. This jibes with a Bloomberg report earlier this month indicating that China's Ministry of Commerce is conducting an anti-monopoly investigation of the deal in response to complaints from Samsung and Google. The two companies were concerned that the deal would drive up the cost of licensing Nokia's patents and give Microsoft undue influence over the smartphone market, according to Bloomberg.

Other smartphone makers, including ZTE and Huawei, have reportedly asked Chinese regulators to impose conditions on the deal, though Bloomberg did not specify what those conditions are.

Despite these concerns, Chinese regulators will likely approve the deal, Bloomberg said.

Nokia is also currently involved in ongoing tax disputes with authorities in India that center around its Chennai plant, but the company insisted that those disputes "have no bearing on the timing of the closing or the material deal terms of" the acquisition, and said that both Nokia and Microsoft are confident that the acquisition will close.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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