Nokia thwarted in bid for Symbian majority

Sony Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens have raised their stakes in Symbian - and ensured that Nokia's share remains below the 50 percent mark

Nokia's attempt to win a majority stake in Symbian has been blocked by three fellow shareholders who have increased their holdings in the company.

Symbian announced on Wednesday afternoon that Panasonic, Sony Ericsson and Siemens are all joining Nokia in snapping up some of the 31.1 percent of Symbian that Psion is selling.

Back in February, Psion announced it was selling this stake in Symbian to Nokia. This move raised fears that Symbian's position as an independent entity was under threat, and in March Ericsson told ZDNet UK that it was keen to prevent Nokia winning more than 50 percent of Symbian.

Ericsson has now succeeded in persuading its fellow shareholders to use their pre-emption rights, with which they have each been able to buy up part of Psion's stake.

Siemens' share of Symbian has now risen from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent, while Panasonic's has gone from 7.9 percent to 10.5 percent. Sony Ericsson, which has taken over Ericsson's participation rights, is boosting its share from 1.5 percent to 13.1 percent. The upshot is that Nokia now owns 47.9 percent -- up from 32.2 percent -- compared to the 63 percent it had been hoping to achieve.

Officially, Nokia said that it welcomed the development.

"Nokia has been working actively to ensure Symbian's long-term success and leadership in the global mobile OS market," said Matti Alahuhta, Nokia's executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

"The broad and unified shareholder commitment shown today is the best evidence of Symbian's ability to support the demanding needs of the industry today and in the future," he said.

Symbian's remaining shareholders are also injecting a total of £50m in extra funding, which the organisation says is a strong show of support for its software, which is used in many smartphones.

"Symbian's target is to take Symbian OS into lower-cost, mass markets for advanced phones for 2.5G and particularly for the emerging 3G networks. Today's agreement shows Symbian's shareholders are backing Symbian to meet that challenge," said David Levin, Symbian's chief executive.