India freezes Nokia assets over alleged unpaid tax

Indian tax authorities have jumped on Nokia, freezing some of the company’s assets over an allegedly unpaid tax bill.

The Indian Income Tax Department, the Wall Street Journal reports, wants to make sure Nokia has enough cash in the bank to pay roughly 39.97 billion rupees – a hefty, but not unmanageable, $365 million.

If the tax bill isn’t sorted out, the whole palaver could impact Nokia’s sale of its handset business to Microsoft. It has a manufacturing plant in the southern state of India Nadu, which happens to be one of its biggest. Some of the frozen assets were included in Microsoft’s $7 billion Nokia buyout.

The company still sells in the country at a high volume, and it is just behind China in market value for Nokia.

But Nokia spokesperson Brett Young told the WSJ he was quietly confident. “Nokia has sufficient assets in India to meet its tax obligations, details of which will be shared with the tax authorities to allay any concerns they may have”. 

“We went to court, and got a ruling in our favour on Thursday, the bank accounts were unfrozen,” Young sort-of explained.

It’s unlikely the assets will heavily impact on the deal but they could complicate it, and potentially put off other top investors from India, analysts warn. But the Indian state is steadfast in going after perceived tax evasions from foreign companies, including Vodafone, Cadbury, Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, and BMW AG.