Nokia Bulks Up Growth Capital Arm

HELSINKI, July 31 (Reuters) – Nokia (NOK1V.HE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will invest a further $150 million into its venture investment arm, hoping to find emerging Internet services from China and India, the world's largest cellphone maker said on Thursday.

The investment raises funds under management of Nokia Growth Partners to $250 million, increasing Nokia's total venture investments to more than $900 million.

“The investment allows us to act on a global basis,” said John Gardner, partner at Nokia Growth Partners, adding the firm aims to invest into 8 to 10 new firms each year.

The venture arm plans to establish direct operations in India and China with the funds.

While an economic slowdown has started to crimp the mobile industry in developed markets, growth in economies such as China and India has stayed at around 10 percent annually and millions of people in the two countries buy their first phone each month.

“The rate of growth is quite dramatic there,” Gardner said.

Nokia has started a major push into Internet services, hoping to find new sales growth when the cellphone market matures.

It has opened navigation, gaming and music offerings on the Internet, hoping to benefit from its mobile business when competing with more established Web-based rivals.

Its services and software business, which offers Internet services, generated revenues of 119 million euros ($185.5 million) in the second quarter.

“In China and India it's a lot related to services and software,” said Nokia's Chief Financial Officer Rick Simonson.

Nokia bets most Internet users in emerging countries will surf the Web from their mobile devices in just a few years, and it now searches for ways to make it work, especially when consumers are looking for extremely cheap services.

Nokia Growth Partners invests in companies which are strategically relevant to Nokia. Its investments include San Francisco mobile video sharing platform Kyte and image stabilising firm Morpho in Japan.

Nokia has invested more than $600 million into early-stage global funds of BlueRun Ventures, formerly Nokia Venture Partners.

By Tarmo Virki

(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)