More than 200 jobless following UIQ’s bankruptcy

The recent demise of Swedish mobile phone software company UIQ has kept bankruptcy administrators busy and led several former employees to start their own firms.

“We expect to be out of the building after February,” said bankruptcy lawyer Leif Ljungholm to the Sydöstran newspaper.

Ljungholm took over UIQ’s affairs just before the start of the New Year following a December 29th decision by the company’s board to file for bankruptcy.

“This bankruptcy is a little different because, in principle, operations had come to a halt before the actual bankruptcy,” said Ljungholm.

Uncertainty about UIQ’s future grew last summer when several major mobile phone operators and software providers announced the formation of Symbian Foundation, which planned to offer the popular mobile software as an open source platform.

“We were a company living on royalty fees from our intellectual property,” the now former UIQ CEO Johan Sandberg told ZDNet.

“As the IP became free of charge, Sony Ericsson and Motorola decided to work with the Symbian Foundation, not UIQ. There was no business for us anymore.”

UIQ’s 270 employees were given notice in November that their jobs were on the line, although Sony Ericsson agreed to fund the company for a couple of months to give management an opportunity to restructure or find a buyer, and to give workers a chance to find new jobs.

During the same month, however, Motorola opted not to renew the few remaining projects it had with UIQ, effectively leaving the company and its workers with nothing to do but wait for word about UIQ’s fate.

Some UIQ employees actually welcomed news of the bankruptcy for putting an end to months of uncertainty about the company’s future.

“Naturally, everyone has thought about what they plan to do and now they can put those plans into action,” said former UIQ employee Annika Grünfeld to the Blekinge Läns Tidning (BLT) newspaper.

Grünfeld’s plans including launching a new business of her own which is housed just a few floors away from UIQ’s soon-to-be-empty offices.

She said that several of her former UIQ colleagues are also planning to go into business for themselves, but that still leaves more than 200 people looking for work.

“Many people have already found new positions, but there are still 230 people here,” Sandberg told ZDNEt.

Bankruptcy lawyer Ljungholm said dealing with the fate of remaining staff and ensuring they receive their final paychecks are his first order of business.

“The second is to take inventory of assets and debts. The company has a rather large number of assets in bank accounts and outstanding receivables – even if there may be some disputes over certain claims,” he told Sydöstran.

UIQ’s roots go back to 1998 when then Lund-based Ericsson Mobile Communications set up a development lab in Ronneby in southern Sweden called Mobile Applications Lab.

In 1999, the division became a part of Symbian under the name Symbian AB, which then became UIQ Technology AB in 2002. Sony Ericsson and Motorola took over ownership of UIQ in 2007.