Nokia will only return to handsets with a partner

After selling its device business to Microsoft last year, Nokia has said the only way it will return to the phone business is with a build partner.

In the wake of Microsoft's $7.6 billion write-down of its handset business, the remnant Nokia has said it would not be able to return to smartphone industry without a partner to build and support such devices.

"The right path back to mobile phones for Nokia is through a brand-licensing model," Nokia said in a statement. "That means identifying a partner that can be responsible for all of the manufacturing, sales, marketing, and customer support for a product."

As well as the logistical reasons for not being able to produce new devices, Nokia also pointed out that its 2013 sale agreement with Microsoft prevents to returning to the handset market until 2016.

Under the terms of the deal, Nokia is unable to license the Nokia brand to anyone that might use it to sell mobile phones, for 30 months after the September 2013 took effect, and cannot use its own name until the start of the 2016 calendar year.

"We will look for the right partner who can take on the heavy lifting and work closely with us to deliver a great product. As we agreed with Microsoft, the soonest that could happen is Q4 2016 -- so it's safe to say Nokia won't be back (at least in phone form...) before then," the company said.

Earlier this year, Nokia released its N1 tablet, which received a strong response in China, with the company adding today that it would be the model for a return to handsets.

"If and when we find a world-class partner who can take on those responsibilities, we would work closely with them to guide the design and technology differentiation, as we did with the Nokia N1 Android tablet," it said. "That's the only way the bar would be met for a mobile device we'd be proud to have bear the Nokia brand, and that people will love to buy."

Since Nokia sold its mobile business to Microsoft and focused on networking equipment, the Finnish company has agreed to merge with French giant Alcatel-Lucent in a deal worth €15.6 billion. Under the arrangement, Alcatel-Lucent shareholders would own 33.5 percent of the combined company, while Nokia shareholders would own 66.5 percent of the merged entity to be known as Nokia Corporation.

In recent months, Nokia has been looking at selling its Here mapping unit, with a consortium of BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen being the only serious bidder left after Uber dropped out.