Nokia priority stores rebranded
Nokia plans return to phone market at end of 2016Reuters

Nokia is planning to re-enter the mobile phone market in 2016, designing and licensing handsets again once an agreement with Microsoft preventing it from doing so ends at the end of next year.

Nokia will "look for suitable partners," chief executive Rajeev Suri said. "Microsoft makes mobile phones. We would simply design them and then make the brand name available to license," he told German publication Manager Magazin. The news comes soon after Nokia denied rumours that it intended to return to the phone market.

Under rules agreed with Microsoft in return for the sale of Nokia's phone- and tablet-making business, Nokia cannot currently use its name on handsets until the fourth quarter of 2016.

Rather than build any new phones itself, Nokia plans to license its name out to other manufacturers, similarl to how Google does with its Nexus brand, which has appeared on products made by Samsung, LG and Motorola.

Using the Nokia name and branding would be a publicity boost for Chinese manufacturers wanting to sell their products in Western markets, which tend to shy away from unfamiliar brands. The strategy is exactly the same as what photography company Polaroid currently does.

Nokia's plans come in the same week that former CEO Stephen Elop was let go by Microsoft, where he headed the devices division following its $7.2 billion (£4.5bn) acquisition of Nokia in 2014. The Finnish company is currently looking to sell its mapping platform, called Here. Suri said in the same interview that "anybody who can improve the business in the long run is a good buyer."

Many companies have been tipped to be interested in buying Here, including ride-sharing platform Uber.