Finnish Gov looks to influence Nokia strategy through 3.3% holding

Solidium, the investment arm of the Finnish government, has announced acquired 3.3% of the shares in Nokia for approximately €844 million as the organization looks to take a more active role in a nationally important business.

The share were acquired over the first couple of months of 2018, with Nokia now accounting for 11% of Solidium’s €8.4 billion portfolio. Other companies in the Solidium portfolio are Elisa, Kemira, Konecranes, Metso, Outokumpu, Outotec, Sampo, SSAB, Stora Enso, Tieto and Valmet.

“The divestment of our stake in Telia in the beginning of the year made it possible for us to invest into Nokia, which fits perfectly into Solidium’s portfolio,” said Solidium’s CEO Antti Mäkinen.

“The appealing factors for us are the company’s strong market position combined with broad technological expertise, which provides opportunities for value creation. In line with our mandate, we hereby strengthen and stabilize the domestic ownership in this nationally very important company.”

Such moves should not be considered incredibly unusual, but putting such an emphasis on Nokia in the Solidium portfolio does indicate how important the vendor is to the Finnish economy. Finland has never necessarily a one-firm country, but such was the reputation of Nokia during the feature phone days, it was a company which the Finns could be proud of and rely upon to help a small country have influence on the global stage.

Looking at the statistics demonstrates why this company was so important to the ambitions of the country. According to Statistia, ten years ago during the first quarter of 2008 Nokia held a 48% share of the global mobile devices market, though the brand was not able to live with the iPhone revolution or the countless other players which entered the market. Just to give a comparison, net sales across 2008 for Nokia were €50 billion, compared to €23 billion last year. Since this downsizing, GDP per capita has shrunk from $53,785 in 2008 to $43,356 in 2016. Finnish fortunes could be said to be linked to Nokia’s.

The only reason the Nokia brand (in terms of devices) is experiencing a bit of a resurgence nowadays is down to nostalgia and the novelty factor. This trend will pass and the feature phone will buried in the history books again, but the current euphoria and financial reward is primarily to the benefit of HMD not Nokia.

5G is an opportunity for Nokia to continue the recovery which we have been witnessing over the last couple of years, but it might have to put up with the Finnish government whispering in its ear. Last month, during Solidium’s half year report announcement, Mäkinen confirmed the organization would look to play a more active role in the operations of the companies it had invested in.

“During the review period, Solidium completed the work on its strategy update, where the key change concerns a more active role as an owner,” Mäkinen said in the statement. “As to the events after the review period, the effects of this strategy update are visible among others in candidacies for board members in our holding companies.”

Solidium has not yet stated who will be put forward to be considered as a representative on the Nokia board, but this is a clear aspect of the Solidium strategy. It has been very bullish in its intentions to influence the strategic direction of its investments and have a member on the board of every single company in its portfolio.

What remains to be seen is how happy Nokia will be with this arrangement. The company has been performing pretty well through the tricky inter-G years so it might think additional help is not required at the moment; trends are heading in the right direction and you know what they say about too many cooks.

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