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Nokia gains smartphone market share

29 января 2010

Nokia declared it was fighting back in its smartphone battle with Apple as it surprised investors with a stronger than expected jump in fourth-quarter profits.

Shares in the Finnish group surged 10 per cent on signs it was regaining lost ground in the growing market for devices such as the iPhone and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry.

Nokia said it increased its share of the smartphone segment to 40 per cent in the fourth quarter, up from 35 per cent in the prior three months, after moves to shake up its product portfolio.

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia chief executive, said recent smartphone launches, such as its flagship N97 and N900 models, had proved successful and promised further efforts to raise the group’s game this year.

He acknowledged that 2009 had been an “interesting” year, characterised by a decline in the mobile phone market and difficult restructuring as Nokia struggled to adapt to rapid change in the market.

But he said the fourth quarter results showed that the group’s strategy was starting to work. “We’ve been able to come out fighting,” he told the Financial Times.

The results helped steal some of the limelight from Apple’s launch on Wednesday of its iPad tablet, a product aimed at filling the gap between smartphones and laptop computers.

Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive, claimed that the company’s revenues from mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPod, exceeded those of Nokia, adding further spice to an increasingly rancorous rivalry. Mr Kallasvuo dismissed Mr Jobs’ claim as bogus, saying it was based on a overly broad definition of mobile equipment. “We continue to be the biggest mobile company by far,” he said.

In addition to competing in the marketplace, the two companies are also locked in legal dispute, with each accusing the other of violating its patents.

Net profits rose to €948m ($1.325bn) in the fourth quarter, up nearly 65 per cent from a year earlier, and easily beating analysts’ consensus forecast for €533m, according to analysts’ polled by Reuters. Shares in Nokia rose 9.9 per cent to €9.91.

Neil Mawston, mobile specialist of Strategy Analytics, a research company, hailed the performance as Nokia’s best, in terms of handset sales, since the first half of 2008. The results were aided by reduced costs and continued strength in emerging markets, with Mr Mawston highlighting “storming” results in Asia and Africa.

It was the 38 per cent growth in smartphone shipments over the past year – and its increased share of the segment over the past quarter – that caused most encouragement.

Investors had become increasingly concerned in recent months by Nokia’s sluggish performance compared with Apple and Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry, in the fastest-growing and highest margin part of the mobile phone market.

Analysts said one positive set of quarterly results would not remove all the doubts that surround Nokia’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing market in which software and services are becoming more important than hardware.

Nokia said it sold 20.8m smartphones in the fourth quarter, compared with 15.1m the year before. It estimated that industry-wide smartphone sales were 52.4m, accounting for 16 per cent of the mobile market. Growth in smartphones helped drive recovery in the mobile market during the fourth quarter after suffering the first serious decline in its history in prior months.

Nokia’s total mobile device volume was up 12 per cent from last year, outstripping the 8 per cent increase by the industry as a whole and helping lift its market share to 39 per cent, from 37 per cent last year.

The group reiterated its forecast for a 10 per cent increase in industry volume in 2010.

Quarterly sales fell 5 per cent to €11.98bn, hit by decline at Nokia Siemens Networks, the group’s struggling network equipment joint venture. But revenues in the core devices and services division increased slightly.

Источник: Financial Times

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