Media speculation on the future of Nokia

Published by at

Following in the wake of acquisition rumours, a swirl of media speculation continues to surround Nokia. On Wednesday Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's leading newspaper, published an editorial saying that "changes were inevitable because the company can not indefinitely spend shareholders money" and that one possible solution was "splitting the comany into several parts". 

Yesterday YLE, the Finnish public broadcaster, reported that a meeting of Nokia's Board of Directors was taking place, at which it suggested that key decisions about the future of the company would be made. YLE noted that Nokia Siemens Network was the most likely topic, but that other areas could not be ruled out.

A combination of these reports, the coincidental presence of Microsoft's Joe Belfiore in Finland, the non-reveal of a five year term limit to the Microsoft-Nokia deal, and a number of other factors seem to have kicked off a more general round of media speculation about the future of Nokia.

Nokia's financial performance has unquestionably been poor in the last few years, a consequence of both the strategy shift first announced in February 2011 and the factors that led to that decision, but the most recent quarterly results have shown signs of improvement, with reduced losses in the key Devices & Services division and an improved cash position. The depressed share price, and its impact on shareholder value, does continue to be an issue, and concerns remain around device volumes. However, while the overall situation remains delicate, it is arguably less serious than it was a year ago.  

Nokia House

It's true to say that a meeting of Nokia's Board of Directors would be needed before signing off on any major strategic decision, but such meetings are not that uncommon. Nokia's own website indicates that the Board met 17 times during 2012, an average of once every three weeks.

The Board held 17 meetings during 2012, of which approximately half were regularly scheduled meetings held in person, complemented by meetings through video or conference calls and other means.

YLE's report does indicate that the meeting may have run into a second day, which would be more unusual, but certainly not unprecedented. As YLE suggests the most likely topic is Nokia Siemens Network, the data networking and telecoms equipment joint venture between Nokia and Siemens.

Recent reports have suggested that Siemens is seeking offers from private equity firms to buy its stake in the joint venture. There is some speculation that Nokia may be looking at buying its partner out, but that would almost certainly require outside funding, which would complicate any potential deal. Both Nokia and Siemens have, in the past, expressed an interest in exiting the venture either via a buy out, or via a public offering, and both of these options remain realistic possibilities today.

Any decision reached by the Nokia Board is likely to become apparent before, or as part of, Nokia's next set of financial results, which are due on July 18th.