Nokia may be on brink of selling luxury handset Vertu unit for €200M

Nokia is only days away from selling its luxury handset subsidiary Vertu for around €200 million, according to multiple reports.

Vertu's Boucheron 150

Vertu, which makes some of the world's most expensive handsets, could be acquired within days by the Swedish private-equity group EQT Partners after talks with Permira, another private-equity firm, failed to produce an offer Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources. Bloomberg also reported that a deal with EQT was close to being finalised.

The unit, which is based in the UK, is the dominant vendor in the luxury-phone sector, with about 60 per cent of the Western European market in 2010, according to research firm IDC.

"Vertu is a bet on a very specific, niche market, though it's a niche that's growing," said Francisco Jeronimo, an analyst at IDC, told Bloomberg.

In late April the Financial Times reported that Nokia was close to selling Vertu unit to Permira in a deal that would have netted the struggling Finnish handset vendor around $265 million. Reports first emerged in December that Nokia was considering a sale of Vertu.

Vertu's president, Perry Oosting, said in September the company (which does not disclose financial data) saw "high double-digit sales growth" in 2010 and 2011, driven largely by demand from emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East. The unit has retails stores in many of the world's most expensive shopping streets, according to Bloomberg.

However, a new owner will face the considerable challenge of modernising Vertu's handset technology--which is based on Nokia's older Symbian platform--to compete with Apple's iPhone and Android-based smartphones.

EQT, which is partly owned by Sweden's Wallenberg family, raised €4.75 billion from investors last October for a new buyout fund focused on Northern and Eastern Europe, and has already spend €1.8 billion this month acquiring the German bandage supplier BSN Medical.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article

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