Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia 'has big symbolic value,' says Finnish minister

Jan Vapaavuori says impact of sale is more emotional than financial as country begins to adapt to shift

Speaking about the sale of Nokia's handset business to Microsoft, Jan Vapaavuori, Finland's minister of economic affairs, wore the look of someone told that a favourite aunt had died after a long illness.

"Nokia was close to 4% of Finland's GDP between 2000 and 2007," he told the Guardian in London. "It was one-third of all Finland's research and development spending. But that ended in 2007. Since then its economic impact hasn't been that big."

The sale, he said, "is the end of a chapter. But it opens a new chapter. It's a healthy reminder of the fact of the hard global competition in the world we live in".

He was briefed about the deal late on Monday night. "It has a big symbolic value. It was known around the world." The impact was more emotional than financial, he said.

Vapaavuori said he had not tried to block the deal. "Finland is very pragmatic. We are quite a young nation. We don't have a history as a superpower. Rather than having one struggling, unprofitable phone company, we will have two strong companies."

Within the country, the mood was one of puzzlement – and abandonment. Unions which have already seen thousands of jobs wiped out did not speak out against the shift, which will see thousands of Finns working for Microsoft. But Liisa Hannula, a 26-year-old who will soon start teaching in Helsinki, said she had always owned a Nokia phone – until now. "Nokia is one of Finland's main brands and it's what I tell people abroad - that Nokia phones are from Finland," she said. "Now I can't say that anymore." Her thoughts? She might buy a Samsung phone next.

• This article was amended on 4 September 2013. The original misquoted Finland's minister of economic affairs as saying: "Nokia was about 40% of Finland's GDP between 2000 and 2007". In fact he said close to 4%.


Charles Arthur

The GuardianTramp

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