Helsingin Sanomat carries an exclusive interview with Nokia’s chairman of the board Risto Siilasmaa, who describes the “night-time tensions and grand emotions” behind the company’s history-making selloff of its handset arm to Microsoft.
Siilasmaa, who calls himself a “paranoid optimist”, describes his emotional roller coaster through the negotiations – from initial “gritting your teeth and getting on with it”, through to nervous shudders at the idea that the Finnish national institution might be completely swallowed up by the American software giant.
After a rocky start to negotiations with no common ground between the two companies, Nokia suggested a smaller negotiating team, thinking that charismatic Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer might be more willing to compromise without such a big audience. Siilismaa describes a subsequent “game of chess”, albeit one which at one point involved Ballmer lying on the sofa covered in blood (after tripping over a glass table).
Finally the companies thrashed out a 5.4 billion euro deal, marking the largest and most culturally significant overseas corporate selloff in Finland’s history. Along the way, Microsoft had unwittingly also funded Nokia’s acquisition of half of Siemens.
Siilasmaa is bullish on the question of the 24 million euro severance payment to outgoing CEO Stephen Elop. He says he was annoyed and disappointed by the public and media backlash, given that he’d negotiated for Microsoft to put up 70 percent of the payoff.
And he describes being on the receiving end of the ire of Finns who, he felt, saw him as having perpetrated an “evil deed” in selling off the business. “It was a difficult time,” he admits.
But Siilasmaa ends his interview on a triumphant note - investors are taking renewed interest in the company, and its market value has shot up since the deal, he says. He has clearly replayed the ins and outs of the selloff in his head many times. “With a little luck and darn hard work we got a great result for Nokia and its shareholders,” he says.
Political struggles ahead
Despite the personal appeal he holds for many Finns, a new poll in Ilta-Sanomat reveals that incoming prime minister Alexander Stubb faces an uphill struggle to convince the public to back his economic plans. The paper reports that supporters of the National Coalition Party are much more likely than the general public to back the new leader over the issues of raising the retirement age, income tax reforms or ending tax breaks for union membership fees.
One commentator tells the paper that the public has so far only seen Stubb in the context of being a confident operator on the foreign stage, or as a charismatic personality. “People don’t yet think of him as a normal politician,” he warns, “so his record on the economy is still an unwritten book”.
Finland’s biggest Swedish-language daily HBL leads with a report that Finnish fertility clinics cannot keep up with the demand for donated egg cells. Last year all but half a dozen private clinics reported a shortage of the egg cells, which are more sensitive to handle than sperm and therefore cannot be imported, the paper reports.
Whereas clinics can and do import sperm from the US and Denmark, women can only donate a limited number of eggs, which can only be accepted for a limited number of pregnancies. Female donors must be under 35, healthy and with an active eggcell production, the paper says.