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Ericsson tries to stop Nokia control of Symbian

Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer Ericsson has become the first of several shareholders in Symbian to announce plans to stop rival Nokia  from gaining control of the mobile phone operating system developer.

In February, Psion agreed to sell its 31.1% stake in Symbian to Nokia in a move that would lift the Finnish phone maker's total stake in the venture to 63.3%. That deal came less than six months after Motorola decided to unload its 19% stake in the software company to Nokia and Psion.

Symbian was launched in 1998 by several large handset manufacturers as a venture to control the development of operating system software for smart phones. It competes, among others, against Microsoft, which is trying to extend its dominant position in the PC operating system software market to mobile devices.

Ericsson president and chief executive officer Carl-Henric Svanberg said Nokia's stake in Symbian must be less than half to prevent the software from becoming "a Nokia platform".

Symbian's five other shareholders have proportional pre-emption rights, allowing them to purchase a stake in the shareholding up for sale that corresponds to their interest in the venture.

While Ericsson owns 17.5%, and its joint venture Sony Ericsson owns 1.5%, Panasonic holds 7.9%, Samsung 5% and Siemens 4.8%.

Svanberg said the company "would act as a team" in exercising their pre-emption rights. Their combined ownership would rise to 27.6%.

He added that if all shareholders exercised their pre-emption rights, Nokia's stake in Symbian would increase to only 46.7%.

While Nokia continues to seek approval for its acquisition of Psion's stake from competition authorities, it is telling fellow shareholders at the same time that they are welcome to exercise their pre-emption rights.

Nokia expected to have an agreement on Psion's stake in Symbian "in the coming months".

After reaching an agreement with Psion, Nokia told the other shareholders that it aimed to continue running the software venture as an independent entity.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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