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Microsoft phone development boss in Finland; Nokia mum on visit

Microsoft phone development boss Joe Belfiore is visiting Finland this weekend. The trip comes amid a cloud of conjecture over buyout bids for the ailing Finnish phone maker Nokia.

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A screen capture of the Twitter post by Microsoft product development boss Joe Belfiore. Image: Yle

Microsoft product development boss Joe Belfiore will be spending the Midsummer holiday weekend in Finland.

Belfiore, who is responsible for development of Windows Phone products, revealed his travel plans in a post on the micro-blogging site Twitter. Belfiore issued a greeting from Espoo, home of struggling Finnish phone maker Nokia.

Apart from the brief disclosure on Twitter, no further information about the trip has been forthcoming from Belfiore or other sources.

On Saturday, Belfiore downplayed the significance of his visit to Nokia headquarters. He said in a tweet that it was just a regular part of the two companies' partnership.

Nokia dumped its proprietary Symbian mobile phone operating system for the Windows-based platform in an effort to reverse its declining fortunes in the growing smartphone market.

Nokia itself has been the subject of much speculation recently, with rumours that the company has been in buyout talks with the Chinese telecoms company Huawei. The leading Chinese technology firm Lenovo and Microsoft are also said to have had their eyes on Espoo.

All quiet in Espoo

Nokia communications chief Maija Taimi was tight-lipped about Belfiore’s visit. She said that the Microsoft heavyweight was in Keilaniemi, Espoo for cooperation talks.

“We cooperate closely on Windows Phone,” Taimi added.

When asked how often such visits are made, Taimi responded “I can’t say, but there is close cooperation.”

The Nokia communications chief said that the company would not join the ongoing speculation about its future.

“We don’t comment on market rumours. We don’t take any kind of position nor do we give advance information on whether or not we have anything to say later,” Taimi declared.

Enlightenment next week?

The analytics firm Inderes and the market research company Marketvision believe that if deals are being cooked up, evidence would first show in the fate of the networks subsidiary Nokia Siemens Networks. Siemens has in the past indicated that it would be willing to sell its stake in the joint venture.

“NSN has been in good shape. It is a very attractive opportunity. There might also be changes in the role of chief executive Stephen Elop,” said Marketvision analyst Toni Nygren.

“Microsoft and Lenovo are interested in Nokia’s phone operations and brand, not NSN. Another option would be to list NSN (on the stock exchange), go for private equity or then go for a complete buyout of Nokia,” said Inderes analyst Mikael Rautanen.

Marketvision’s Nygren expects some indication of the future path next week.

”Something could happen as early as the beginning of the week. I could imagine that directors don’t fly here just for fun,” Nygren said, referring to Belfiore’s weekend visit.

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