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Microsoft, Nokia Deal: What Wall Street Thinks

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Microsoft's (MSFT) decision to purchase Nokia's (NOK) Devices & Services business in a transaction valued at $7.17 billion is huge news Tuesday, as investors, analysts and the media weigh in with their thoughts.

Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, Microsoft will acquire Nokia's Devices & Services business, license non-exclusively Nokia's patents, and license and use Nokia's mapping services.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is stepping down within the next 12 months, said the deal was "a win-win" for everyone. "Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft's share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services," Ballmer said.

There is mixed opinion from Wall Street analysts on the deal, with some looking at this as Microsoft going "all-in" on its mobile strategy. Here is what a few of them had to say:

Oppenheimer analyst Shaul Eyal (MSFT Outperform, $37 PT)

"With the acquisition of NOK's D&S unit, MSFT is placing a final bet on its mobile opportunity. While the transaction does not come as a full surprise, it does remove an uncertainty enabling investors to weigh the chance of getting it right this time. We view the transaction as a MSFT call option on mobile, whereby some positive reward could be reaped from the money entered. If the option expires, then (hopefully) not too much damage will have been done. While the transaction poses some near-term integration risk, the following near-term catalysts could outweigh it: 1. potential dividend hike; 2. new external CEO with potentially fresh strategic thinking; 3. shareholder activism (ValueAct). Maintain Outperform."

Citi analyst Walter Pritchard (MSFT Buy, $35 PT)

"MSFT is entering the phone business in a major way with an eye on improving its sub 5% share position by owning the business end-to-end. While MSFT will continue OEM relationships, it adopts a strategy similar to Apple in phones, trading its OEM license ([less than] $10/device) for gross profit (currently low-$30s and headed towards ~$40/device), but takes on all of the execution and market risk. Some investors had hoped and it was speculated in the press that Microsoft might explore separating the challenged consumer business from its profit-driving enterprise business. However, with doubling down on devices here, that scenario looks unlikely. It is also possible investors will view the upcoming CEO change as less interesting as this acquisition really does lock the successor into the current strategy. It has been our view that success in Windows is necessary to ensure the longevity of the company's enterprise franchise and thus a separation of consumer Windows could not happen. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will return to Microsoft and assume leadership of the new Devices business (with previously named head Julie Larsen-Green reporting to Elop). We expect Elop becomes a more viable candidate for MSFT CEO, given the obvious importance of devices."

Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley (NOK Hold, $5.50 PT)

"We believe Microsoft with its strong balance sheet and increased focus on hardware devices can help accelerate the growing WP8 smartphone momentum. We estimate Lumia sales now constitute over 85% of WP8 smartphone sales. We believe Microsoft has recently worked more in concert with Nokia to drive sales, as evidenced by Microsoft's advertising campaign featuring Lumia features and by Nokia 1020's ranking as a top 3 selling smartphone at AT&T. Stephen Elop is stepping down as CEO, as Nokia focuses on its three businesses of NSN, HERE, and Advanced Technologies."

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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