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Nokia recommits to Alcatel-Lucent deal as profits fall

Nokia HQ

© Flickr/CC-licence/Chiva Congelado

You just can’t please everyone, all of the time, as Nokia is discovering. After enduring years of pain in the Elop years, a network-focused Nokia is looking a far healthier business proposition. It’s planned purchase of rival Alcatel-Lucent took many by surprise with its timing, although it had been mooted for a long time, yet is generally being viewed as a good strategic move.

Not so in the eyes of Alcatel-Lucent’s second-largest shareholder, Odey Asset Management, which thinks the firm is under-valuing itself. According to a letter sent to its investors and that was seen by the Financial Times, Odey Asset Management will not be tendering its 5 per cent in the takeover because it believes the agreed price of €15.6bn is too low.

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri declined to comment specifically on the news, but told analysts during Nokia’s Q1 conference call that: "We've met many investors in the last couple weeks, and there's very strong, good feedback. Fundamentally this is a good deal with attractive upside in long-term and upfront."

Ultimately, Odey Asset Management can do nothing to stop the deal, which only requires the tendering of 51 per cent of Alcatel-Lucent’s shares. However, if it can persuade others to hold out for more money, then the deal would have to be revisited.

Meanwhile, Nokia this morning reported strong first quarter results. Revenue was up 20 per cent year-on-year to €3.2bn, but operating profit fell 13 per cent to €265m (although net profit was up 65 per cent to €181m.) Nokia Networks contributed the vast majority of business, with €2.7bn of revenues, an improvement of 15 per cent on Q1 2014, although operating profit for the division fell 61 per cent to €85m.

Suri commented that whilst there was “excellent performance” from Here (the mapping unit it is keen to sell) and Nokia Technologies (IPR), “good growth at Nokia Networks was offset by unsatisfactory profitability”. Whilst Nokia Technologies only contributes 8 per cent of revenues, its operating profit of €193m represents 73 per cent. No wonder Suri is a little disappointed, as were shareholders, who sent Nokia’s down 9 per cent on morning trading. In fact, Nokia’s shares are now trading 20 per cent lower than before the Alcatel-Lucent deal was announced.

What would really help Nokia’s cause now would be set of disappointing results from Alcatel-Lucent on May 7th, otherwise more investors may join Odey Asset Management in calling for the terms to be revised upwards.

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