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LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s largest cell phone maker, Nokia, said on Tuesday its 264 million euro ($339.9 million) acquisition of British software firm Symbian was on track to be closed this year.

Nokia said in June it would buy out other shareholders of UK-based smartphone software maker Symbian and make its software royalty-free to other phone makers in response to new rivals such as Google. It has said it expects the deal to be approved by the end of this year.

"The Symbian deal is on track," Mary McDowell, Nokia’s chief development officer, told Reuters on the sidelines to Business Week’s European Leadership Forum in London.

McDowell said Nokia hopes its push into Internet services will also boost sales of its smartphones, which lead the industry with about 40 percent market share but have lost ground to Apple and RIM in the last few quarters.

"Clearly Internet services represent a revenue growth opportunity, (but it is) also a basis of competition in high-end devices," she told Reuters.

Handset makers had previously been relatively unscathed by the global economic crisis this year, but successive warnings from Nokia, Qualcomm and Intel signaled a rapid deterioration of consumer electronics demand.

"Even in areas where there is consumer demand, credit conditions are causing problems," McDowell told the forum, echoing Nokia’s comments in a Nov 14 warning.