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Nokia confirms Microsoft deal

Markku Ulander | AFP | Getty Images

Nokia confirmed the sale of the Finnish mobile telecoms group's handset unit to U.S. software giant Microsoft at a shareholders' meeting on Tuesday, with speculation heating up over the future of both businesses.

More than 99 percent of shareholders voted to approve the sale at the meeting in Helsinki at 2 p.m. local time (7:00 a.m. New York time). The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.

Nokia shares closed around 3 percent lower on Tuesday.

In September this year, Nokia agreed to sell its devices and mapping services business and to license its patents to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros ($7.2 billion). The deal proved controversial because it marks the end of the iconic Finnish handset brand. Following the sale, Nokia said in a statement that it planned to focus on developing "advanced technologies, its patent portfolio and Nokia brand."

At the announcement of the deal back in September, Nokia's chief executive, Stephen Elop, said he would step down to rejoin his old employer, Microsoft. His three-year tenure at Nokia has proved controversial — particularly over his decision in 2011 to adopt Microsoft Phone software over the company's own operating system.

(Read more: Is Elop being groomedto take over top job at Microsoft?)

James Crawshaw, IT and Telecoms analyst at S&P Capital IQ, told CNBC he believed the sale would allow Nokia to invest further in its other divisions.

"They're left with the networks business which is the third largest globally after Ericsson and Huawei and they've also got a small sideline in mapping content for satellite navigation devices and they also have a patents portfolio that they're looking to monetize more aggressively going forward."

He believed Nokia's network sales would stabilize in 2014 and would grow thereafter following what he called a "remarkable turnaround" by the group's networks division in 2013.

"The Nokia networks [division] continues to be a profitable business and I think there's also a fair amount of expectation about this patents portfolio and that its profits could be increased after the disposal of its handset business."

Microsoft is also holding an annual shareholder meeting in Washington on Tuesday (at 11a.m. New York time) but discussions are expected to center on finding the company a new chief executive.

(Read more: Microsoft and Nokia are both dumb about smartphones)

Steve Ballmer announced in August that he would be leaving the company within 12 months following a rocky tenure of the company which has seen its earnings falter and market share decrease recently.

His resignation comes against a backdrop of increasing shareholder unhappiness with his 13-year time at the top of Microsoft. The company has failed to hold on to its market dominance as consumers have moved from PCs to mobile devices and it has been somewhat slow to catch up with rivals Apple and Samsung.

(Read more: Who'll succeed Steve Ballmer at Microsoft?)

The meeting today was Ballmer's last at the helm of the tech giant with speculation mounting that the company's board has cut its short list of successors from five people to three. Industry-watchers have favored Alan Mullaly, the current CEO of Ford, and Elop as leading candidates with the company's current chief operating officer, Kevin Turner, also in contention.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt

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