Nokia's patent chief departs in wake of Samsung pacts

HELSINKI/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The head of Nokia’s small, but highly profitable patent licensing division is leaving after two years in the role, the Finnish company said on Wednesday, weeks after he sealed a pace-setting patent deal with Samsung Electronics.

Headquarters of Finnish telecommunication network company Nokia are pictured in Espoo, Finland August 4, 2016. Lehtikuva/Irene Stachon/via REUTERS

Ramzi Haidamus, 52, is stepping down as president of the Nokia Technologies unit that handles patents and development of new consumer products. The unit also recently struck a licensing deal with HMD Global it hopes will herald the return of the Nokia name into handsets.

“Given (the unit’s) progress, now is the right time for me to explore new opportunities to pursue my passion for building and transforming businesses,” Haidamus said in a statement.

Haidamus spent a dozen years running patent licensing for Dolby Laboratories before joining Nokia, and will leave at the end of next month, Nokia said. He had remained based in Silicon Valley even after joining the Finnish company in 2014.

His departure comes little over a month after Nokia announced the second of two patent licensing agreements with Samsung, the world’s top mobile handset maker, and which takes effect this quarter. It is set to boost Nokia’s patent and brand royalties to an annualized run-rate of around 950 million euros compared to the company’s previous estimate of 800 million euros.

The second deal, which covers Nokia-owned patents for use by Samsung in its future products, restored investor confidence after an initial patent pact earlier this year was considered unfavorable to Nokia and poorly received.

The Samsung agreements were the first since Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft in 2014 and potentially set the terms for future patent licensing deals with other major tech firms such as Apple, Huawei [HWT.UL] and Qualcomm, which aren’t due to be renegotiated for several years, financial analysts said.

Nokia Technologies, whose principal asset is its broad catalog of patents built up in the days when the company dominated the mobile handset business, contributed less than 2 percent of group revenue in the latest quarter, but 14 percent of profits. It had sales of 391 million euros in the first half of 2016.

The unit is also in charge of Nokia’s bid to bring the brand’s mobile phones back to the market and move into other areas of consumer technology, but this push remains in its early days.

“I am confident that with its strong foundation, Nokia Technologies will continue its progress without missing a beat,” said chief executive Rajeev Suri. There will be no change in the unit’s strategy.

Nokia said it has begun the search for a successor and that Brad Rodrigues, hired earlier this year to head strategy and business development at Nokia Technologies, will assume the role of acting president.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell and Eric Auchard; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Alexandra Hudson