|A Nokia Oyj retail store in Helsinki, Finland (Bloomberg)|
Microsoft Corp. won European Union approval for its 5.44 billion euro ($7.4 billion) bid to take over Nokia Oyj’s handset business as regulators warned that they would monitor Nokia’s licensing practices.
The European Commission said it “will remain vigilant and closely monitor Nokia’s post-merger licensing practices under EU antitrust rules,” according to an emailed statement. Any possible competition concerns over Nokia’s conduct as the owner of a portfolio of smartphone patents “falls outside the scope” of the EU’s review of the Microsoft transaction.
Microsoft’s bid for Nokia’s mobile-phone business didn’t raise any antitrust issues because the companies’ businesses only have a “minimal” overlap, the EU said. Microsoft is unlikely to restrict the supply of its Windows operating system for mobile phones or its mobile apps or to restrict rivals’ access to its business mail service.
The world’s largest software maker will pay 3.79 billion euros for Nokia’s devices division and 1.65 billion euros to license patents, according to a statement from the companies. Microsoft and Nokia face an EU antitrust complaint filed by Google Inc. last year that alleged the companies were using patents to thwart competition.
Microsoft has also complained in its own name and as part of industry groups over Google’s Android operating system for mobile phones and its search engine.
Microsoft is “pleased that the European Commission has cleared the deal without conditions,” Robin Koch, a spokesman for the company in Brussels, said in an email.
The Redmond, Washington-based company won approval from the EU for the deal more than eight months after it was fined 561 million euros by the same regulator for violating the terms of an antitrust settlement to give users a choice of Web browsers. The penalty was the fourth levied on Microsoft by the EU since it was fined 497 million euros in 2004 for blocking rivals for server and media programs. (Bloomberg)