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Nokia, Siemens dial network deal
Merged unit second best equipment player

Franfurt/Helsinki, June 19 (Reuters): Nokia and Siemens have agreed to combine the bulk of their telecom networks businesses to create one of the biggest players in the industry, sending shares in both firms higher.

Analysts put a value of 20 to 25 billion euros ($31.5 billion) on the new business, whose Finnish and German parent companies will exchange no money to do the deal. Around one in five mobile phone calls is already made via a Siemens or Nokia network.

The units in the 50-50 venture, Nokia Siemens Networks, had sales of 15.8 billion euros last year, which would make it the second biggest mobile equipment player and third in fixed infrastructure, the companies said on Monday.

Shares in industrial conglomerate Siemens were up 7.1 per cent at 67.25 euros by 1451 GMT on relief it had found a solution for an operation that has long been a burden.

Nokia gained 2.9 per cent to 16.11 euros as it achieves critical mass for its networks business. That unit has suffered from fierce price competition, including from new Asian rivals, in the fight for orders from the big telecoms operators in a consolidating industry.

“I think in the longer term it’s good. For Nokia, it’s size, and size matters when you’re talking about the networks services business,” said Hannu Rauhala, analyst at Opstock in Helsinki.

He said the deal would allow the companies to grow more quickly in a low-growth market.

“Siemens has a very good position in fixed-line networks, and it offers very good possibilities when you are talking about convergence.”

Number 4 ranking

In the overall telecoms infrastructure market, the joint venture will rank behind industry leader Cisco Systems, the merged Alcatel-Lucent, and Swedish-based Ericsson by total sales.

The combination of Nokia’s networks unit and the Siemens carrier business in fixed and mobile networks will offer some savings, and up to 9,000 jobs are due to be cut.

It will also help the companies get ahead in converged systems, the technology that allows fixed-line and mobile systems to operate over the Net.

“The boundaries are blurring,” said Nokia’s Simon Beresford-Wylie, who will be chief executive of the venture.

Siemens has been searching for years for a solution for its telecoms equipment unit Com, after offloading its loss-making mobile phones division to Taiwan's BenQ last year.

The Siemens Com unit made an operating profit of 454 million euros last fiscal year, or 3.5 per cent of its sales of 13.1 billion euros. But Siemens will keep, for now, its enterprise business which tailor-makes telecoms systems for firms, though it is actively pursuing a divestment.

Nokia's networks division had an operating margin of 13 per cent last year and the joint venture will target a margin in “double digits” already in the first year.

Profit boost

Nokia and Siemens both expect to boost their earnings per share by the end of 2007 on a pro-forma basis excluding restructuring charges, which Beresford-Wylie said would total about 1.5 billion euros.

The firms expect cost synergies of 1.5 billion euros annually by 2010 and said they would cut 10 to 15 percent of the new business's combined workforce of 60,000 over four years.

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