Microsoft swallows Nokia’s phone business for $7.2 bln

HELSINKI/SEATTLE,  (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp will buy Nokia’s phone business and license its patents for 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion), a bold foray into mobile devices that also brings potential chief executive contender Stephen Elop back into the fold.

Two years after hitching its fate to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software, the Finnish phone maker that once dominated the global market collapsed into the arms of the U.S. software giant, its mobile business ravaged by nimbler rivals Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

Shares in Microsoft slid as much as 6 percent in the afternoon, lopping more than $15 billion off the company’s market value, as investors protested the acquisition of an underperforming and marginalized corporation that lost more than $4 billion in 2012.

Retiring CEO Steve Ballmer is trying to remake Microsoft into a gadget and services company like Apple, a move that has not won the endorsement of all shareholders.

Nokia CEO Elop, who ran Microsoft’s business software division before jumping ship in 2010, will return to the U.S. firm to head up its mobile devices business just as the company’s board considers a successor to Ballmer, who announced last week he will retire within a year.

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