Nokia’s Elop Only Put Microsoft Plan for Board Vote

Nokia Oyj executives put only the Microsoft Corp. option for vote at a board meeting on Feb. 10 after having studied three plans, Executive Vice President Mary McDowell said in an interview.

“We had presented three scenarios: continue with the current plan of record, a Google option and a Microsoft option but the recommendation that we made to them was the Microsoft option so that’s what they approved,” she said. The executives first went to the board in November with the options, she said.

Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop announced on Feb. 11 that Nokia would make Windows Phone 7 its primary mobile-phone platform, replacing its home-grown Symbian. Since then, Nokia’s shares have tumbled 18 percent, wiping out about 5.5 billion euros ($7.4 billion) off the Finnish company’s market value.

Investors and analysts remain skeptical that adopting the Windows Phone 7 platform is going to help Nokia claw back ground lost to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and handsets based on Google Inc.’s Android software.

“The decision to transition its smartphone portfolio to Microsoft Windows Phone is a risky one for Nokia,” said Alex Spektor, an analyst at Strategy Analytics Inc.

Meanwhile, in an open letter, a group of “nine young Nokia shareholders,” who said they’d all worked for the company in the past, said they plan to challenge Elop’s strategy and partnership with Microsoft at the next shareholders’ meeting, slated for May 3. The unidentified shareholders didn’t respond to an e-mail sent to them seeking additional comment.

Plan B

The letter, entitled “Nokia Plan B” said that its authors would seek Elop’s ouster, would maintain “ownership and control” of Nokia’s software and restructure the Microsoft alliance to focus primarily on the North American market.

Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson said the company will stay on track with its new strategy.

“We are aware of the anonymous letter, but have not been directly contacted,” he said. “Nokia’s new strategy has the full approval of the board of directors and the Nokia leadership team, and our focus right now is on executing this new strategy.”

Nokia’s McDowell said the company will go forward with the strategy of using Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 as its main smartphone platform.

“We’ve announced what our strategy is, it was made with a great deal of thorough analysis so this is our plan,” McDowell, who is in charge of the Espoo, Finland-based company’s low-end mobile phones, said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

McDowell said there will be more Symbian phones this year.

“Symbian’s not going to go zero,” she said. “We had growth in Symbian in places like Russia and China and we will have more attractive products hitting the market this year. We’ve got a whole roadmap of new Symbian devices that we’ll be bringing to market in 2011.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Diana ben-Aaron in Helsinki at dbenaaron1@bloomberg.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

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