Microsoft's Nokia Devices & Services acquisition now expected to close in April 2014

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Microsoft's €5.4 billion acquisition of Nokia's Devices & Services division, first announced back in September of last year and originally expected to close in the first quarter of this year, is now expected to be completed next month. While Microsoft has received regulatory approval "in 15 markets on five continents", it is still awaiting "approval confirmation in the final markets".

From the official Microsoft blog:

We wanted to provide a brief update on the status of the regulatory process for approval of Microsoft’s acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business. We are nearing the final stages of our global regulatory approval process – to date we have received approvals from regulatory authorities in 15 markets on five continents. Currently, we are awaiting approval confirmation in the final markets. This work has been progressing, and we expect to close next month, in April 2014.

The completion of this acquisition will mark the first step to bring Microsoft and the Nokia Devices and Services business together. Our acquisition will accelerate our mobile-first, cloud-first imperatives. We’re looking forward to accelerating innovation and market adoption for Windows Phones and introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones.

Nokia has also released its own statement, which also notes that completion is pending approval from antitrust authorities in Asia that are "still conducting their reviews".

Nokia today announced that it now expects the transaction whereby the company will sell substantially all of its Devices & Services business and license its patents to Microsoft to close in April 2014. This compares with Nokia's previous expectation on the transaction closing in the first quarter of 2014, which Nokia communicated when the company first announced the transaction on September 3, 2013. Nokia and Microsoft remain committed to the transaction.

As previously communicated, the closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Nokia and Microsoft have already received most of the required regulatory approvals, including approvals from the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. Furthermore, Nokia and Microsoft continue to make good progress related to the closing conditions and integration planning. However, the transaction is pending approvals from certain antitrust authorities in Asia which are still conducting their reviews.

Nokia also notes that the "ongoing tax proceedings in India", arising from a dispute with local authorities over a software tax bill at Nokia's Chennai factory, will have "no bearing on the timing of its closure or the material deal terms of the anticipated transaction between Nokia and Microsoft".

Impact on BUILD 2014

One of the side effects of the delay is that Microsoft and Nokia's Devices & Services division will not be able to present a joint front at the upcoming Microsoft BUILD 2014 developer conference.

Regulatory and legal restrictions mean the two companies are obliged to continue to operate independently in the best interests of their respective shareholders. Indeed, the two companies are likely having to be more careful about areas of co-operation and operating within legal restrictions than in the period before the acquisition was announced.

We still anticipate that the next version of Microsoft's mobile platform, Windows Phone 8.1, will be formally announced at the event. A developer preview will be provided shortly afterwards, with consumer availability following in the May to July time period.

However, partly as a result of the delayed completion of the acquisition, it is now much less likely that new Lumia devices, such as the dual-SIM Lumia 630, will be announced at BUILD 2014, which kicks off on April 2nd. However, this may offer a chance for other Windows Phone manufacturers, such as the new Indian licensees, to take centre stage.

Nokia will still be present in force at BUILD 2014, most visibly in the form of its DVLUP initiative and developer evangelist teams from across the company, but also in the form of speakers, including representative from Nokia's HERE division. While Nokia device announcements are now not expected to take place at BUILD, we do anticipate they will occur soon, with the first one likely coming within weeks of BUILD 2014.

Update: It now appears that Nokia will hold their own event on the opening day of BUILD (i.e. seperate from, but at the same time as BUILD).

A note on Nokia X

It's also noteworthy that the Microsoft statement includes a reference to "looking forward to... introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones", a reference to Nokia's recently released Nokia X handsets. Microsoft, in the form of its Skype division, was on stage at the Nokia MWC 2014 event to provide an endorsement of the Nokia X product, but inevitably speculation arose as to what Microsoft's plans were for Nokia's mobile phone devices, especially in the light of the Android AOSP-powered devices.

Our view remains that Microsoft will embrace the Nokia X platform, should it prove to be successful in terms of sales in the next six to twelve months. Given the time scale of product development and the due diligence done before an acquisition, there is no chance that Microsoft was not aware of the Nokia X development programme before its intent to acquire Nokia was formally announced. It may not be an ideal situation for Microsoft, but with Windows Phone's bill of materials still well over the $100 mark, the realities of the market dictated that Nokia (and Microsoft) needed a product line to compete with the cheapest Android devices.