As many market observers had expected for sometime, Nokia closed the chapter on what can only be described as a dramatic climb-down for what once was the world’s leading mobile player. Nokia agreed to sell its Devices & Services business to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros. What does this mean for Nokia Solutions and Services (NSN), formerly Nokia Siemens Networks? I have several observations:
I expect that more change for both Nokia and NSN lies ahead. Nobody can accuse Nokia of shying away from fundamental transformations: from pulp producer, to electronic component supplier, to mobile phone company, to now what resembles a holding company looking after a network infrastructure business (NSN), a cloud-based mapping service (HERE), and a patents and a licensing operation (Advanced Technologies). I see no synergies between these operations. Hence, a breakup of Nokia followed by an initial public offering of NSN could be one possibility. At the Mobile World Congress 2013, NSN presented itself in a manner what - to me - looked like dressing up for an IPO: a lean and mean provider of mobile broadband network solutions.
Eventually, Microsoft announced its decision to acquire Nokia's devices and services unit for € 5,4 billion.
After all these years of speculation, now was the time to invest. Indeed, despite the collapse of the Nokia handset empire, Nokia still has numerous assets: a wide portfolio of patents, Nokia’s product engineering and global capabilities in manufacturing, marketing, and distributing mobile phones. Microsoft is thus not only acquiring the Lumia brand but also the Asha one – bearing in mind Nokia still sold close to 54 million devices in Q2 2013.
Nokia will now focus on its three core technologies: the network infrastructure with NSN, its maps and location-based service ecosystem with HERE, and Advanced Technologies. There were early signs of the new approach when, a year ago, Nokia started to build brand equity beyond mobile phones with HERE (see my take on this blog at that time) but also more recently when Nokia announced its decision to acquire Siemens’ take to fully own NSN. Microsoft will pay Nokia a four-year license of the HERE services, bringing some regular revenues to the now much smaller company.
To avoid parts of the company to be acquired by some Far East Asian manufacturers and due to the diminishing investments from other Windows Phone licensees, Microsoft had to adopt a vertically integrated strategy. They are indeed the best placed to generate synergies with Nokia following the more than two years agreement. And as All Things Digital puts it, Stephen Elop is now the Microsoft CEO candidate to beat.