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Making Things Official: Nokia Shareholders Approve Sale of Mobile Business to Microsoft

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Nokia shareholders approved the 5.4 billion euros ($7.4 billion) sale of the company’s mobile phone business to Microsoft, deciding the deal’s financial benefits outweighed any objections to the loss of a Finnish national asset.

Investors holding more than 99 percent of Nokia voting rights supported the deal, according to a final tally at Tuesday’s shareholders meeting in Helsinki. The sale is expected to close in the first quarter of next year after regulatory clearances.

Nokia had in September agreed to sell its devices and services business and license its patents to Microsoft after failing to recover from a late start in smartphones.

The sale is set to boost Nokia’s net cash position to nearly 8 billion euros from around 2 billion in the third quarter – a windfall likely to help it regain investment-grade status from credit rating agencies and allow it to return cash to shareholders.

Nokia earlier this year suspended its annual dividend for the first time in its 148-year recorded history in an attempt to preserve cash.

Billionaire and activist investor Daniel Loeb said in October he had taken a position in Nokia and expected a “meaningful portion of the excess” cash from the Microsoft deal to be returned to investors.

Without the loss-making handset business, the remaining company will derive more than 90 percent of its sales from telecom equipment unit Nokia Services and Networks. It will also include a navigation software unit and a trove of patents.

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