Nokia prepares to sell luxury brand Vertu

Vertu ConstellationFollowing recent reports of factory closures and redundancies, Nokia is now reportedly preparing to put its luxury handset brand, Vertu, up for sale. The move is part of the beleaguered mobile giant’s attempts to streamline its operations in an effort to compete with the likes of HTC, Apple and Samsung.

For those  of you not familiar with the name, Vertu is Nokia’s high-end mobile phone division, which has been around since 1998. Vertu offers handsets built using fancy materials and adorned with glittering jewels, most of which come at an astronomical price.  Strangely, Vertu has never been about the technology, and only last month launched its first touchscreen phone, the Constellation.

While handmade phones covered in alligator skin and diamonds, featuring exclusive ringtones recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, may not attract the geeks, they’re very popular with those who can afford to splash out anywhere from $5,000 to $200,000 on a Symbian-based phone. The recent Constellation launch party in London was attended by actors James Franco and Michael Fassbender, just to give you an idea of their clientele.

Now though, the Financial Times reports that Goldman Sachs has been appointed to oversee the sale of Vertu, from which Nokia can expect to raise between $268 million and $402 million, according to Goldman’s estimates. The newspaper’s sources say private equity groups have already expressed interest, but they expect other luxury goods companies to step in too, as Vertu shares a similar customer base.

Vertu has been financially outperforming Nokia recently, but with little crossover between the brands and the Finnish firm’s desire to make its Windows Phone 7 devices a success around the world, so saying goodbye to Vertu could be prudent.

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