Sony and Ericsson are working to stop Nokia gaining more than a 50 per cent share in the Symbian consortium, Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg tells today's Financial Times. Ericsson, which currently has 17.5 per cent, and Sony, which through Sony-Ericsson has 1.5 per cent, will 'act as a team' to raise their own shareholding, but Svanberg said that Nokia's share would rise to 46.7 per cent, and the combined Sony and Ericsson stake to 27.6 per cent, if all shareholders exercised their pre-emption rights.
So Svanberg is not simply talking about Ericsson increasing its stake to keep Symbian independent, but about getting everybody else, including Samsung, Siemens and Panasonic, to act together. If Nokia's acquisition of Psion stake goes ahead without action from others, then Nokia will have 63.3 per cent.
None of the other shareholders, Ericsson included, have any reason yet to state their intentions, as the pre-emption process won't actually commence until (or indeed, if) all regulatory authorities approve the sale to Nokia. Just keeping Nokia a little under 50 per cent may not however be enough. With the exit of Psion it is the largest shareholder by a long chalk in what was originally intended to be an ever-growing consortium, and proportionately it's at least arguable that the company has too big a stake already. Symbian would look a lot more convincing if none of Psion's stake was going to Nokia, and it was going entirely to two or more other companies instead. But then it would still have to tell us what its plan is, if it's not now going to IPO, of course. ®