France backs Nokia deal with Alcatel-Lucent

Baku, April 15, AZERTAC

Nokia is in talks to buy French rival Alcatel-Lucent in a deal that could create a European telecoms equipment group worth more than €40bn (£29bn).

In a joint announcement the two companies said there could be "no certainty at this stage" that the discussions would result in a deal.

But combining two of the industry's weaker players would be attractive.

Prospects of a Nokia/Alcatel merger increased after the French government said it would back a deal.

The chief executives of both companies - Nokia's Rajeev Suri and Alcatel-Lucent's Michel Combes - held a brief meeting with President Hollande on Tuesday afternoon but did not comment.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said after the meeting that a deal would be a "good operation for Alcatel-Lucent" and allow the creation of a European champion. but with "no job cuts" in France.

Shares in Alcatel closed up 16% at €4.48 in Paris on Tuesday. Shares in Nokia ended 3.6% lower at €7.49 in Helsinki.

Nokia is valued at almost €28bn - more than twice as much as Alcatel, which is worth €12.6bn.

The announcement comes a year after Nokia completed a deal to sell its struggling handset business to Microsoft.

'Weaker players'

Some investors expressed skepticism over the merits of the tie-up.

"They are two of the weaker players in the industry," said Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu.

"They could come up with some cost cuts, but just because you combine one weak player with another weak player does not necessarily mean that you will end up with a stronger player."

Timo Seppala, senior researcher at Aalto University in Helsinki, said the talks were a clear indication that the Finnish company aimed to be a major player.

"Nokia wants to be one of the three big ones - a game player alongside China's Huawei and Ericsson [of Sweden]," he said.

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