Will Samsung Buy Nokia?

 @DavidZie
on June 08 2012 11:33 AM
Nokia
Nokia corporate image. Reuters

Shares of Nokia (NYSE: NOK), the onetime king of mobile phones, rose more than 7 percent Friday on speculation Samsung Electronics (Seoul: 5930), the current leader, might be eyeing a takeover.

In early activity, Nokia American Depositary Receipts rose as high as $3.07, giving the Finnish phone maker a market capitalization of $11 billion.

Samsung, the world's No. 1 phone maker appointed a new CEO this week, Kwon Oh-hyun, who oversaw its semiconductor lines into the No. 2 worldwide, behind only Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), the No. 1 chipmaker.

Decisions about acquisitions and the course of Samsung's mobile business will remain with Chairman Lee Kun-hee, the company said.

Another rumored suitor for Nokia is Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), the No. 1 social networking site, which raised $16 billion in its initial public offering last month. Acquiring a mobile phone maker like Nokia would put it squarely in the mobile platform business, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged was a new frontier.

Indeed, just before the IPO, Zuckerberg personally handled the details of the pending $1 billion acquisition of private Instagram of San Francisco. The deal is intended to add more photo applications for mobile phones to Facebook's PC-based technology.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has said it will examine the Instagram deal. The cash-and-shares acquisition hasn't closed yet.

A Samsung-Nokia deal would clearly be a blow to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company, which lost its No. 1 smartphone lead to Samsung in the first quarter. Samsung phones now operate on the Android OS developed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), the No. 1 search engine which last month finally acquired Motorola Mobility holdings. Samsung as well has said it might also be open to Windows 8, the new OS from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), the world's biggest software company, scheduled for release in the second half of the year.

Nokia, whose CEO, Stephen Elop, is a former Micrsoft VP, has already linked itself to Windows, scrapping the largely European Symbian OS for Windows 7, with implementation of Windows 8 this year. Still, Elop in April warned Nokia's finances were questionable and that the company expects to report a loss for the first half of 2012.

Nokia and Microsoft already enjoy excellent technical relations. At the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer lauded the company and said it would enjoy Microsoft's full support.

Microsoft, which spent $8.5 billion for voice-communications provider Skype last year, hasn't expressed any interest in acquiring a phone maker, though.

Speculation about Nokia comes at the same time as talk about a possible takeover of BlackBerry developer Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), which last month hired investment bankers to provide strategic advice. New CEO Thorsten Heins has said RIM wants to survive as an independent company, but the move suggests the company could be for sale.

Indeed, activist investor Victor Alboini, owner of a stake just under 5 percent in RIM, said after the hiring of the Wall Street banks its BlackBerry lines ought to be sold, with operation of the network sold to an enterprise software company such as Microsoft or International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM).

Shares of RIM rose 3 cents to $10.76 on Friday, while shares of Microsoft gained 12 cents to $29.35.

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