Nokia Seeks Partners as Suri Plays Down Juniper Deal Prospects

Feb 24, 2014 11:36 am ET

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Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Nokia Oyj is seeking to expand its sales alliance with Juniper Networks Inc., said the head of the Finnish company’s wireless-network equipment unit, who played down the prospects of a full-scale merger of the two companies.

“There are no synergies” likely in a wireless-network equipment company’s combination with a maker of Internet routers and switches, Rajeev Suri, chief of Nokia Solutions and Networks, or NSN, said today in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “They’re different markets.”

Juniper stock fell the most in four months after executives of the two companies reacted to a magazine report about Nokia weighing a combination. Juniper Chief Executive Officer Shaygan Kheradpir said yesterday in Barcelona he hasn’t had any talks with NSN about a merger and he had spent each of his 59 days on the job focused on revitalizing the Sunnyvale, California-based company, which has a market value of $14 billion.

“We have a partnership with Juniper and we will seek ways to expand that partnership,” Suri told reporters yesterday. “That’s all.”

Juniper fell as much as 4.8 percent in New York and slipped 0.5 percent to $27.82 at 11:32 a.m. local time. Nokia rose 2.1 percent to 5.53 euros at the close in Helsinki.

Nokia is seeking partnerships similar to its pact with Juniper, Suri said. Smaller acquisitions by NSN are possible, and the market for networking equipment is already consolidating around the three largest vendors, he said. NSN competes against larger Ericsson AB of Sweden and China’s Huawei Technologies Co.

Cash Level

Germany’s Manager Magazin reported this month that Suri had met with Juniper’s management to discuss a possible merger.

Last year, NSN considered buying the wireless equipment unit of Alcatel-Lucent SA, people familiar with the matter have said. Nokia is set to receive 5.44 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in cash from the sale of its mobile-phone business to Microsoft Corp. The deal is scheduled for completion this quarter.

Nokia, whose debt is ranked junk by the largest rating companies, doesn’t need the Microsoft proceeds to maintain customers’ trust, Suri said.

“The cash we have on our balance sheet right now is sufficient,” he said.

Siemens Buyout

Nokia last year bought full ownership of the NSN venture from Siemens AG. NSN is set to account for more than 90 percent of Nokia’s revenue after the sale of the phone business. Nokia hasn’t named a CEO to succeed Stephen Elop, the former Microsoft executive who is returning to the software maker. Suri is among candidates for the position, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News last month.

“We don’t have to do a deal for the sake of a deal,” Suri said, when asked about NSN’s plans for mergers and acquisitions. “We will look for opportunities out there.”

Separately, NSN said it won a contract to complete a high- speed, fourth-generation mobile network for EE, the largest U.K. wireless carrier. NSN will build a network covering 25 percent of the U.K. population, focusing on rural areas and small towns, and bringing total 4G coverage to 95 percent. EE is 50-50 owned by Orange SA and Deutsche Telekom AG.

--With assistance from Amy Thomson in Barcelona. Editors: Ville Heiskanen, Tom Lavell