Nokia Phones May Ring Once Again, but Not as You Knew Them
Would you buy a Nokia cellphone?
That’s the question that Foxconn, the Taiwanese technology giant, and HMD Global, a Finnish company, are hoping to answer after they joined forces on Wednesday to license the once-powerful brand to build smartphones and tablets, primarily for customers in emerging countries.
The announcement signals the potential return of Nokia-branded phones after the company sold its handset division in 2013 for $7.2 billion to Microsoft, which subsequently wrote down most of that investment. Microsoft later discontinued Nokia-brand smartphones.
The attempt to revive Nokia phones and tablets (the company had previously licensed its brand to Foxconn to make a tablet in China in 2014) also comes almost two decades after Nokia, then the world’s largest smartphone maker, reached its highest valuation of almost $250 billion. It is now worth around $30 billion.
After a number of missteps, most notably the failure from 2007 onward to adequately respond to the global popularity of Apple’s iPhone, Nokia has been forced to reinvent itself as a telecommunications equipment maker, producing mobile network and broadband infrastructure for the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
The deal announced on Wednesday aims — admittedly amid cutthroat competition in the world’s smartphone market — to resurrect the Nokia brand for consumers that may still remember the company’s glory days before it fell behind rivals like Apple and Samsung.
To make that happen, Foxconn, which put up most of the cash, and HMD Global, a private-equity-backed Finnish group led by former Microsoft and Nokia executives, agreed to buy Microsoft’s so-called feature phone unit for $350 million. The division has 4,500 workers worldwide and a manufacturing facility in Vietnam. Feature phones are basic devices, mostly used in developing markets, that often lack services like Internet access.
为了实现这个目标，富士康和HMD Global同意以3.5亿美元买下微软公司所称的功能手机分部。该分部在全球有4500名员工，在越南有家工厂。功能手机是基础设备，主要面向缺乏互联网等服务的发展中国家市场。此次购买主要由富士康出资。HMD Global是一家获得私募股权支持的芬兰公司，由微软和诺基亚的前高管们领导。
Foxconn and HMD Global also sealed a separate agreement with Nokia to license its brand to manufacture new smartphones and tablets, adding that they planned to spend a further $500 million over the next three years to promote the devices, which would run on Google’s Android operating system.
Under the complicated agreement, Foxconn — which also makes devices under contract for other manufacturers and has attracted criticism for how it treats its workers — would manufacture the devices, which have not yet been released, as well as the existing feature phones.
HMD Global, based in Helsinki, would design the new smartphones and tablets. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year. HMD Global is backed by a private equity firm run by Jean-François Baril, a former Nokia executive with close ties to Foxconn.
HMD Global公司位于赫尔辛基，它将负责设计新的智能手机和平板电脑。这项交易预计将于今年年底前完成。HMD Global获得诺基亚前高管让-弗朗索瓦·巴里勒(Jean-François Baril)经营的一家私募公司支持。巴里勒与富士康关系密切。
Nokia would be paid a per-device licensing fee, and it will have a position on HMD Global’s board, though it did not put any money into the entity.
“Branding has become a critical differentiator in mobile phones, which is why our business model is centered on the unique asset of the Nokia brand and our extensive experience in sales and marketing,” Arto Nummela, HMD Global’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“品牌塑造已经成为手机的一个关键区别点，所以我们的商业模式以诺基亚独特的品牌资源以及我们在销售和市场推广方面的广泛经验为核心，”HMD Global的首席执行官阿托·努梅拉(Arto Nummela)在一项声明中说。
Nokia has tried to reinvent itself in the smartphone market before.
Months before completing its handset sale to Microsoft, the Finnish telecom giant released a device based on the Android operating system, a belated realization that Google’s software had outmuscled Microsoft’s rival version. Not surprisingly, Microsoft discontinued the device soon after taking control of the division.
It also remains unclear whether the reimagined Nokia phones would be able to compete in a global market where low-cost rivals like Xiaomi of China can offer powerful smartphones to emerging market customers, often at a fraction of the cost of Western rivals.