HELSINKI, Sept 4 Credit rating agency Fitch said
it may upgrade Nokia's speculative-grade debt rating
after the company announced the sale of its handset business to
Fitch Ratings said it placed Nokia's senior unsecured
ratings of "BB-" on "Ratings Watch Positive" because of an
expected improvement in its finances following the 5.4 billion
euro ($7.2 billion) deal announced on Tuesday.
Nokia has been struggling to reverse a decline in its cash
position and fall in market share. In August, Fitch reaffirmed
its "BB-" rating but said its long-term issuer default rating
was negative, citing a lack of visibility in the devices and
services (D&S) business.
"The sale of the D&S business brings to a close a period of
extreme stress in the credit profile of the handset industry's
former leading manufacturer," Fitch said in a statement.
Fitch said Nokia's remaining operations, including Nokia
Solutions & Networks, a previous venture with Siemens which it
bought out in early July, as well as a patent portfolio and
navigation business, would hold strong capital and a significant
net cash position.
The agency said a closure of the Microsoft deal would likely
lead, at a minimum, to an affirmation of the current ratings at
"BB-" with a stable outlook or a potential one-notch upgrade.
One notch up from "BB-" would be "BB", still speculative grade.