Nokia’s Symbianic relationship

June 24, 2008

nokia.jpgFresh from having Yahoo slip through its fingers, Microsoft‘s plan to leapfrog into Consumerville takes another hit with news that Nokia is paying 264 million euros ($410 million) to buy out other shareholders of Symbian, the dominant player in smartphone software. Nokia says it will dissolve royalty payments for the platform, making it more attractive when compared to Google‘s rival free platform, Android. Symbian’s operating systemis already used in two-thirds of smartphones; Nokia makes 40 percent of all phones sold globally. “This puts a lot of pressure on Microsoft right at a time when they are trying to really push into the consumer space,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. “For operators this offers a good alternative to Android.”

British gas producer BG Group launched a hostile $13.1 billion bid for Australia’s Origin Energy, as it seeks to boost its position in Asia-Pacific’s fast-growing gas market. BG is taking its A$13.8 billion all-cash bid, valuing Origin at A$15.50 a share, direct to shareholders after Origin’s board rejected it last month. Origin claimed then that its coal seam gas reserves alone were worth over $15 billion. Shares in Origin, which have surged over 85 percent this year, rose 6.2 percent to a record A$16.48 before closing up 5.8 percent at A$16.42, indicating investors expect an even higher offer. If successful, the deal would be the second-largest foreign takeover of an Australian company after Cemex, North America’s largest cement producer, bought Rinker Group last year for $14.2 billion.

Russian oil major Lukoil bought a 49 percent stake in Italian refiner ERG SpA‘s Mediterranean plant for 1.35 billion euros ($2.1 billion), in a sign of the growing energy ties between Russia and Italy. Lukoil and ERG, Italy’s second-biggest refiner by market share, agreed a joint venture valued at 2.75 billion euros to control ERG’s Isab di Priolo refinery on Sicily. ERG will have 51 percent of the new company.

Other deals of the day:

* UBS said it had acquired Dutch wealth manager VermogensGroep.

* French aero engine and telecoms maker Safran said it had bought Dutch-based passport and secure ID document maker Sdu-Identifaction.

* Shares in China Oilfield Services, an arm of the CNOOC, jumped more than 3 percent as speculation grew about a potential takeover of Norwegian offshore driller Awilco Offshore.

* South Korean food group Dongwon said it will buy canned tuna company StarKist from Del Monte Foods for about $300 million, in the latest push by South Korean food makers for global expansion.

* Australian zinc and lead miner Perilya rejected as inadequate a takeover proposal from CBH Resources, both companies said, but Perilya left the door open to further talks.

* Flowers Foods, which produces baked goods, said it agreed to acquire Holsum Bakery in a cash and stock deal.

* Italy’s Banca Popolare dell’Emilia Romagna will launch a buyout offer for the 71.8 percent of its Meliorbanca unit it does not already own at 3.2 euros per share, BPER said.

* Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare said it will sell its interest in health care services company Broadlane Inc to TowerBrook Capital Partners for proceeds of about $155 million.

* Occidental Petroleum said it is buying a stake in a major Canadian oil sands project for C$500 million ($492 million), giving it a foothold in one of the world’s biggest developing oil plays as crude prices surge.

* Digimarc, a provider of secure identity technology, said it is spinning off its digital watermarking business as part of a deal with L-1 Identity Solutions, a photo and fingerprint identity equipment maker.

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