Nokia CEO gains French government approval for Alcatel-Lucent deal with R&D commitment

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri committed to utilising Alcatel-Lucent's French R&D facilities to develop technologies including 5G and small cells as part of a deal to secure the backing of France's government for the companies' planned merger.

During a meeting with Emmanuel Macron, France's Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, Suri said Alcatel-Lucent's French facilities would be placed front and centre in future technology research programmes. Nokia pledged it would also leverage Alcatel-Lucent's R&D capabilities to develop cyber security and privacy technologies, wireless and optical transmission, IP platforms, and to maintain the Bell Labs division.

The Finland-headquartered company also said it would continue to back a number of French government technology initiatives that Alcatel-Lucent is currently involved in, including the 'Industry of the Future' programme, funding of academic tuition, and placing leading technology experts at the French facilities.

In a statement, Nokia said that it expects "to benefit from becoming a deeply embedded part of France, tapping into and helping develop the technology ecosystem of the country."

The company pledged to "invest further in the digital innovation ecosystem in France," following the closing of the €15.6 billion ($17.4 billion) deal. Nokia will establish a long-term investment fund worth around €100 million that will be used to research the Internet of Things, cyber security and software platforms to enable next-generation networks as part of that vow.

Suri told Bloomberg before the meeting with Macron that he is pleased with the progress the companies have made with approvals and integration planning, calling it "remarkable."

 "I'm not worried about the French government, that's well on track," Suri said. "We have so much to learn but it's not rocket science. Listen, observe, be here, be present." 

Suri also said that while it's too early to discuss job cuts or site closures that might happen after the merger closes, Suri said he knows he'll have some "heavy lifting" to do to bring together the companies' overlapping wireless network assets.

Suri's commitments add to previous Nokia pledges to maintain employment in France in line with current Alcatel-Lucent goals as part of the company's Shift Plan for a minimum of two years following the closing of the merger deal.

Nokia previously agreed to increase staff at Alcatel-Lucent's French R&D sites from 2,000 to 2,500 over the next three years, in a move that will also see it hire at least 300 graduates.

Securing the backing of France's government is another significant step in the road towards the completion of the merger. Another key hurdle was passed in August, when Nokia filed a preliminary draft registration statement the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nokia said other key closing conditions remain, including gaining the approval of its own shareholders, but that it continues to expect the merger to be completed in the first half of 2016.

For more:
- see this Nokia announcement
- see this Bloomberg article

Related articles:
Nokia plans new China JV following Alca-Lu merger
Nokia moves closer to Alcatel-Lucent acquisition with key SEC filing
Nokia gets EU green light for Alcatel-Lucent acquisition
Nokia Networks claims world first with 1 Gbps-capable small cell base station
Alcatel-Lucent slashes Combes 'golden parachute' payment