Psion shareholder seeks to stymie Symbian sale

An investment group holding 13 percent of Psion is the first to announce its opposition to the controversial sale of Psion's stake in Symbian

Psion's largest shareholder is set to oppose the company's plan to sell its £135.7m stake in Symbian, the smartphone software joint venture.

Phoenix Asset Management Partners is urging other shareholders to vote against the plan next week, arguing that Psion should instead push for a potentially lucrative Symbian flotation. Phoenix holds 56 million shares, or about 13.1 percent of Psion. Psion chairman David Potter holds the second-largest stake, with 12 percent of the company, and has promised to vote in favour of the deal. Phoenix is the first big shareholder to announce its opposition, although others have criticised the move.

Psion is planning to sell its 31 percent stake in Symbian to Nokia, a move which would give Nokia control over the smartphone software maker. The sale would be a shift away from Psion's roots -- Psion created the software that forms the basis for the Symbian OS. It could also damage Symbian's credibility in the mobile phone world by making it at least appear to be a pawn of Nokia, according to some industry observers.

For some Psion shareholders, the concern is that Psion will gain an immediate influx of cash at the expense of a far more lucrative IPO later on. Phoenix pointed out that shipments of Symbian-powered phones more than tripled to 6.67 million devices in 2003, with more than one million shipping in December.

In a statement responding to Phoenix, Psion noted that an IPO would require the approval of all Symbian shareholders, and warned there was an increasing divergence of interest between Symbian shareholders who were also Symbian customers -- companies such as Nokia -- and those who were not, such as Psion.

Shareholders will vote on the sale next Friday.