Case Study of a Failed M&A—The Role of Environment in Microsoft’s Acquisition of Nokia

The citizens of Finland were unhappy with the announced Microsoft-Nokia merger.  The Finns had long felt national pride from Nokia’s success. Giving up control of this national company to a foreign entity was blow to their identity.  Microsoft did little to alleviate the Finns’ concerns.

Public Acceptance

Public Perception. News and media critics (as well as citizens) in both the U.S. and Finland expressed dislike for Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile unit. From Microsoft’s perspective, many viewed the deal as a gamble – and a poor one – as Nokia was perceived as a dying company. In fact, many decried the deal as a desperate attempt to get into the mobile phone market and gain market share from Google and Apple.

People in Finland reacted very critically towards the acquisition. Nokia was seen as one of Finland’s most successful companies, even though its market share had been declining. The sale of Nokia’s phone division “was a huge psychological blow for Finland and the self-confidence of the Finnish people.”1 The deal left many Finns with a sour taste toward Nokia. One Finns’ reaction to the acquisition displays Finnish resistance to the deal: “‘Nokia is one of Finland’s main brands, and it’s what I tell people abroad —that Nokia phones are from Finland,’ she said. ‘Now I can’t say that anymore.’”2

As Finns saw one of the biggest and most powerful companies from their nation swallowed by an American company, it was an emotional blow to their national pride. Nokia had been one of the biggest contributors to Finland’s GDP and now it would no longer be considered a “Finnish company” but would merely be a cog in an American corporation.

Logistics

Location. With permission from Nokia’s leaders, Microsoft Mobile decided to take over Nokia’s original headquarters located just outside of Helsinki, Finland. One spokesperson from Nokia said, “As the majority of employees currently working at our corporate headquarters are focused on devices & services activities and support functions, Nokia House will become a Microsoft site once the deal closes.”3 Similar to before the acquisition, employees of the new merged company would have to fly to Finland in order to help with decision making or make long-distance calls at hours outside of the normal work day to compensate for the 10-hour time zone difference.

Regulatory Differences. Since the U.S. and Finland share a positive relationship, no lengthy legal procedures were required on either side of the acquisition. The only regulatory term discussed in the press was the lack of communication between the two companies and the public regarding the merger. As one reporter stated, “Neither party was legally allowed to discuss details about the acquisition in public.”4

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Footnotes:

  1. The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Nokia. (2015, April 20). New Zealand Herald.
  2. Finns Mourn Loss of Icon Nokia as Microsoft Takes Over. (2013). Bloomberg.
  3. Microsoft to take over Nokia’s iconic headquarters next year – Times of India. (2013, November 21). Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/international-business/Microsoft-to-take-over-Nokias-iconic-headquarters-next-year/articleshow/26111504.cms
  4. Molen, B. (2016, July 18). What you need to know about Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2014/04/25/microsoft-nokia-merger-details/