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Psion's biggest shareholder pans Symbian sale

A company that holds 13 percent of Psion is the first to announce opposition to the planned sale of Psion's stake in the smart-phone joint venture to Nokia.

Psion's largest shareholder is opposing the company's plan to sell its stake in Symbian, the smart-phone software joint venture.

Phoenix Asset Management Partners is urging other shareholders to vote against the plan next week. Phoenix argues that Psion, which has a $250 million stake in Symbian, should instead push for a potentially lucrative initial public offering of Symbian.

Phoenix holds 56 million shares, or about 13.1 percent of Psion, which is a U.K.-based handheld computer maker. Psion Chairman David Potter holds the second-largest stake, with 12 percent of the company, and has promised to vote in favor of the deal. Phoenix is the first big shareholder to announce its opposition, although others have criticized the move.

Psion is planning to to Nokia, a move that would give the Finnish cell phone company control over the smart-phone software maker.

The sale would be a shift away from Psion's roots. The company created the software that forms the basis for the Symbian operating system. The sale could also damage Symbian's credibility in the mobile-phone world by making it at least appear to be a pawn of Nokia, according to some industry observers.

For some Psion shareholders, the concern is that Psion will gain an immediate influx of cash at the expense of a far more lucrative IPO later on. Phoenix pointed out that shipments of Symbian-powered phones more than tripled to 6.67 million devices in 2003, with more than 1 million shipping in December.

In a statement responding to Phoenix, Psion noted that an IPO would require the approval of all Symbian shareholders and warned that there was an increasing divergence of interest between Symbian shareholders that are also Symbian customers, such as Nokia, and those that are not, such as Psion.

Shareholders are scheduled vote on the sale on March 12.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.