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Rivals thwart Nokia's bid for Symbian control

Sony Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens raise stakes in smart-phone OS maker, ensuring Nokia's share stays below 50 percent mark.

Nokia's attempt to win a majority stake in Symbian has been blocked by three fellow shareholders that have increased their holdings in the company.

Symbian announced Wednesday that Panasonic, Sony Ericsson and Siemens are all joining Nokia in snapping up some of the 31.1 percent of Symbian that Psion is selling.

Back in February, Psion announced it was selling this stake in Symbian to Nokia. The move raised fears that Symbian's position as an independent entity was under threat. In March, Ericsson said it was planning to prevent Nokia from winning more than 50 percent of Symbian.

Ericsson has now succeeded in persuading its fellow shareholders to use their pre-emption rights, with which they have each been able to buy up part of Psion's stake.

Siemens' share of Symbian has now risen from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent, while Panasonic's has gone up from 7.9 percent to 10.5 percent. Sony Ericsson, which has taken over Ericsson's participation rights, is boosting its share from 1.5 percent to 13.1 percent. The upshot is that Nokia now owns 47.9 percent--up from 32.2 percent--compared with the 63 percent it had been hoping to achieve.

Nokia said that it welcomed the development.

"Nokia has been working actively to ensure Symbian's long-term success and leadership in the global mobile OS market," said Matti Alahuhta, Nokia's executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

"The broad and unified shareholder commitment shown today is the best evidence of Symbian's ability to support the demanding needs of the industry today and in the future," he said.

Symbian's remaining shareholders are also injecting a total of $172.5 million in extra funding into the company, which the smart-phone OS maker says is a strong show of support for its software.

"Symbian's target is to take Symbian OS into lower-cost, mass markets for advanced phones for 2.5G and particularly for the emerging 3G networks. Today's agreement shows Symbian's shareholders are backing Symbian to meet that challenge," said David Levin, Symbian's chief executive.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.