Not all acquisitions are created equal. Of course, all acquisitions are scrutinized by analysts and shareholders, especially the megadeals, because they can fundamentally change a company. That's certainly the case with Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) $7.4 billion decision to acquire the devices and services unit of Nokia (NYSE:NOK).
Outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer has gone on record saying that one of his biggest regrets was taking too long to dive into the explosive mobile-computing market. That's one of the reasons the acquisition of Nokia is perfect, for both parties: It solves Microsoft's mobile "problem" in one fell swoop, and Nokia can concentrate on its money-making networking business. And most Nokia shareholders got it, as evidenced by its nearly 60% jump in stock price since the deal was announced in early September, and the overwhelming approval of the deal in today's shareholder vote. More than 99% of shareholders voting gave it a thumbs-up. The question is, what's up with the folks who shot it down?
Talk about your win-win
It's no secret that Nokia's devices and services unit has been a drag on earnings. In the recently completed third quarter, Nokia actually increased mobile phone sales by 6% compared to Q2, a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, even with an improvement in smartphone unit sales year over year, earnings were still down 19% and were undermining Nokia's positive networking and map results.
Just as with the Microsoft devices and services deal, Nokia's decision to buyout Siemens, its former partner in the Nokia Siemens Network, was spot on. Like him or not, focusing on the profitable networking business was former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's finest hour. Last quarter marked the sixth straight period of profit for NSN (now Nokia Solutions and Networks). Toss in its HERE maps unit and an extensive patent portfolio, and Nokia's primed for future growth.
For Microsoft, not only does the Nokia deal instantly solve its desire to become a player in manufacturing mobile devices, the timing could not be better. I wrote recently, the stars are aligning in all the right places for Microsoft's Windows Phone OS.
In addition to gaining market share around the world, Windows Phone is making huge strides in Western Europe. With 9.8% of the smartphone OS market in Europe's five key markets, Windows Phone has more than doubled its piece of the OS pie compared to last year in the countries of Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and the U.K.
The stellar growth in Western Europe should really please Microsoft bulls when it's coupled with the results of a recent Gartner survey. For the first time this year, according to Gartner, Western Europe enjoyed an improvement in smartphone sales. Just as Windows Phone gains momentum? That's fortuitous timing, to say the least.
And let's not forget Nokia's recently introduced phablets, the Lumia 1520 and low-cost Lumia 1320. For the third quarter of 2013, the 56 million phablets sold made up 22% of all smartphone devices and is up from the prior quarter's 45 million units. Phablets are a lot more than a fly-by-night mobile fad, and now Microsoft is armed with some serious ammunition.
Final Foolish thoughts
The deal for Nokia's devices and services unit is ideal for both parties, and the timing couldn't be better. Nokia is free to focus on its profitable networking and maps units, and Microsoft solves its mobile needs overnight. Who can't see that? Apparently, about 0.3% of Nokia shareholders.