U.S. Okays Microsoft Acquisition of Nokia Phone Business

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With no fanfare and just a list of all the subsidiaries included in the deal, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) on Monday granted permission for the acquisition by Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) of the handset business of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) for approximately $7.2 billion. The merger now must clear European Union (EU) regulators before it can close.

There is little reason to think the deal won’t be approved in Europe. The EU has set a deadline of Wednesday to announce its decision on the merger which has already been approved in Russia, India, Turkey, and Israel and by Nokia shareholders.

The acquisition reunites former Microsoft executive and now-former Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop, with his former employer, but the betting line that Elop will accede to the CEO job at Microsoft has dropped considerably over the past couple of months. Elop is slated to lead an expanded Devices group at Microsoft that will include the company’s tablets, phones, and Xbox game consoles.

The likely front-runner to replace retiring CEO Steve Ballmer is Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) CEO Alan Mulally. We pointed out recently that Mulally is doing Ford no favor by sticking around any longer if he is in fact going to be offered — and plans to accept — the Microsoft job. Ford has slipped in new car quality rankings and the company needs to get its eye back on the ball.

The FTC and DoJ announced today’s decision in a two-page document headed “Transaction Granted Early Termination.” Big merger actions don’t get any more low-key than that, even though that outcome had been expected.

Shares of Microsoft stock are up about 1% in the early afternoon at $38.53 after posting a new high of $38.78 earlier. The stock’s 52-week low is $26.26.

Nokia’s shares are down 0.8% at $8.01 in a 52-week range of $3.02 to $8.18.

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