You can't hurry love, nor the next Nokia phone

The company is taking its time finding a licensee to build a branded handset

Nokia is looking for a licensee to make a phone carrying its brand, but it's not an urgent mission at the mobile network behemoth.

When the company sold its handset business to Microsoft in 2014, it retained the right to make phones under the Nokia name starting in the fourth quarter of this year. It's still searching out the right partner, CEO Rajeev Suri said.

"There's no rush. Could happen in 2016, could happen later," Suri said. If there is another Nokia handset, the company won't make it but will design it, he said. The partner will handle manufacturing and distribution and should be able to do it globally. The license fees and royalties would be good business for Nokia, Suri said.

The comments, in response to a question, were the most casual Suri made in a forceful press briefing on the eve of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Mostly he crowed about the company's US$16.5 billion acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, which it effectively finished in January. The new Nokia is ahead of schedule on cutting costs, is prepared to sell off more businesses if they aren't competitive, and hasn't had the kinds of infighting that has plagued other giant networking mergers, Suri said.

Nokia now controls one of the world's biggest wired network infrastructure companies, along with its own mobile network business. The handsets that made the Finnish company a household name around the world in the 1990s are no more since Nokia sold that business to Microsoft.

But Suri believes a Nokia-branded phone could carry a price premium due to that name recognition. He didn't say any more about what kind of partner the company's looking for, just that it wants to find the right one. Nokia also wants a way to back out of the deal if the licensee doesn't meet its standards -- sort of like a corporate prenuptial agreement.

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Stephen Lawson

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