Finland takes stake in Nokia to boost national ownership

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HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s government investment arm Solidium has acquired a 3.3 percent stake in Nokia at a cost of about 844 million euros ($1.04 billion) to strengthen Finnish influence over the telecom network gear maker.

The Nokia logo is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

“We believe that this will be a good investment. One must remember that Nokia is Finland’s largest company and its Finnish ownership has been rather thin,” Solidium CEO Antti Makinen told Reuters.

He said Solidium was not seeking a seat on Nokia’s board at an upcoming shareholder meeting but that it could look at that option going forward.

He noted that Solidium has this year taken a more active role in the boardrooms of the companies it owns stakes in.

Nokia ruled the global mobile phone market a decade ago and was a dominant economic engine for the country, providing 4 percent of its GDP and 20 percent of its exports.

The collapse of Nokia’s former phone business was a major reason for Finland’s decade of stagnation from which it is only just recovering.

According to Nokia’s webpage, three Finnish pension funds at this point own less than 3 percent of Nokia.

Nokia is nowadays focused on the telecom network industry where it competes with Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei [HWT.UL].

“The appealing factors for us are the company’s strong market position combined with broad technological expertise,” Makinen said.

Solidium’s mandate is to own significant Finnish companies with an idea to keep them“more or less Finnish”, Makinen told Reuters in an interview last month.

Solidium manages minority holdings in 13 listed Finnish companies which mainly originate from an era of state-led industrialisation.

Solidium trimmed its stake in Telia and Sampo in the past weeks to finance the investment in Nokia.

($1 = 0.8112 euros)

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Terje Solsvik/Keith Weir